A Life In Sync

At age 10, Anusha Tuli finds a harmony between her love for the water and Bollywood dancing in synchronized swimming.

Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.

Ever wonder how those talented synchronized swimmers keep their heads above water — literally? Most likely it is the egg beater. Not the kitchen tool used to whip up meringues, but a special underwater move that “synchro” swimmers use to keep their bodies gracefully afloat, while also staying in sync with the music.

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Anusha Tuli practices for the Synchro Gainesville Gaviatas team of synchronized swimmers.

Matt Stamey

Anusha Tuli, a mere 10 years old, has already mastered this move and many others as part of the competitive Synchro Gainesville Gaviatas group.

“I was in second grade and my teacher told me about 'mermaid camp' … I tried it and liked it,” explains Anusha of her start in synchro, at the ripe old age of 7.

Her teacher for gifted math at Chiles Elementary School was Betsy Seymour, who also coaches the Mermaid Camp. The annual summer program run by the Synchro Gainesville Gaviatas introduces and recruits swimmers to synchronized swimming.

“Anusha attended it and was hooked,” says her mother, Sonal Tuli, an ophthalmologist and head of the residency program at UFHealth.

As beautiful as synchronized swimming is to watch and participate in, there are actual rules to follow — at least in competitions.

“Once you dive in, if you touch the wall you're disqualified … and you get points for particular elements [in your routine],” Anusha explains. “If you're in front of the judges, they give you points if you smile.”

With her sparkling smile, flowing black hair, bronze-tone skin and long graceful limbs, Anusha — who attends the academic magnet Lyceum Program at Lincoln Middle School — bears a certain resemblance to Disney's Princess Jasmine, but perhaps has more in common with Ariel in Disney's “The Little Mermaid.”

“I really love swimming … any kind of swimming!” she says with a grin.

Her mother nods knowingly. She and her husband, Sanjeev, a professor and chief in the division of pediatrics at UFHealth, are used to hosting plenty of swim “playdates” for Anusha and her friends at their home pool in Haile Plantation. Sonal says she often takes Anusha to swim meets — which is different from her synchro swimming competitions.

“She is a competitive swimmer in addition to synchronized swimming and has qualifying times for swimming in her age group in almost all strokes,” Sonal adds proudly. Anusha swims with the Haile Swim Team, based out of Haile Plantation Golf and Country Club and coached by Matt Coan.

Her grueling schedule starts with Synchro Gainesville Gaviatas every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for two hours, and then follows up with swimming laps on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the Haile Swim Team — of which her older brother, Aayush, 14, is also a member.

“Anusha is a very talented synchro swimmer. She is focused and coachable,” says Becky Dyroen-Lancer, head coach of Synchro Gainesville Gaviatas. “The conditioning base that she has training with the Haile Swim Team helps her with synchro.”

Another tool that helps Anusha with synchro? Her love of music and dance. The straight-A student, who likens synchro to “dancing in the water,” especially enjoys Bollywood movies and music, and has shared her passion with her synchro team.

“This past season, Anusha brought me the most interesting music! The music was captivating and I had her swim solo to it. She swam beautifully and everyone loved the routine,” adds Dyroen-Lancer.

Outside of the pool, the colorful Bollywood films and upbeat music continue to captivate Anusha. She performed a Bollywood dance with a group of students for IndiaFest, a festival celebrating her Indian heritage. In fact, her group, which studies with Neeta Sriram, was so popular they were chosen to perform again.

“I like performing!” Anusha adds. “[Bollywood dancing] has unique steps and it's challenging.”

In addition to her synchronized swimming and Bollywood dance performances, Anusha was selected to be a part of the Alachua County Elementary Honor Choir for the past two years.

“[Only] five to six students from each school are selected,” Sonal adds.

But life isn't all about singing and dancing, or swimming for that matter.

Anusha manages to carve out time in her busy schedule for academics, too; she is on the honor roll and is the recipient of multiple governor's and principal's awards, as well as the President's Award for Educational Excellence.

“I like reading and writing, and math and science,” she says. “Last year, in my science class [at Lawton Chiles Elementary School], we built a car to talk about friction!”

When she isn't building cars for science class, Bollywood dancing or jumping into the pool, Anusha enjoys simple, quiet activities, such as painting or gardening, and hanging out with her friends.

With her busy schedule, it's hard to think about anything more than a few days in advance, however, she does plan to continue synchronized swimming — perhaps through college and hopefully onto the Olympics.

“I really like swimming but … I hope to do synchro competitively,” Anusha says.

Dyroen-Lancer, an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1996 for the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team, recognizes her talent as well.

“I believe that Anusha will be successful in whatever she puts her mind and heart into. For synchro, U.S. Nationals is clearly in her future,” Dyroen-Lancer adds.

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