Team France at the 2019 FINA World Championships.
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  • Synchronised swimming, also called artistic swimming, become an official Olympic sport in 1984.
  • Participants of the sport perform highly advanced, intricate routines coordinated to music.
  • The latest FINA World Championships event, which included synchronised swimming, just wrapped up in July.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa.

From above the surface of the water, synchronised swimming is spectacular to watch - but most of the magic actually occurs underwater.

The highly technical sport goes far beyond floral swim caps and coordinated outfits, and photos of athletes performing synchronised swim routines prove just how incredible the sport really is.

Synchronised swimming emerged from forms of water ballet in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to FINA, the international aquatic sports federation. A modern version of the sport was introduced in 1934 at the Chicago World's Fair by coach Katharine Curtis, and an announcer at the event, Norman Ross, coined the phrase "synchronised swimming," according to Smithsonian Magazine. In 1984, synchronised swimming became an official Olympic sport.

Recently, some of the world's top synchronised swim teams competed at the 18th FINA World Championships, which were held from July 12 until July 28 in Gwangju, South Korea.

Keep reading to admire some of the sport's most stunning photos.

Nope, you're not looking at this photo upside-down. This amazing scene is what a synchronised swimming routine looks like from below the surface.

FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's team brought home two gold medals in Artistic Swimming at the 2019 FINA World Championships.


The swimmers tread water to keep themselves below the surface while they create intricate designs with their feet and legs...

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Synchronised swimmers from China earned a silver medal for their team performance at the 2019 FINA World Championships.


...or propel teammates into the air for amazing acrobatic stunts.

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Acrobatic stunts are among the technical elements synchronised swim teams are required include in their performances.


Talk about defying gravity.

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This moment may have been one of the swimmer's few seconds to catch her breath.


While they tread beneath the surface, the swimmers are guided by music coming from underwater speakers.

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The France synchronised swim team's neon suits glow under the surface of the water.


Here, a swimmer's crystal-clear reflection makes for a breathtaking mirrored illusion.

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Can you tell if she is above or below the surface?


Using teamwork and breath control, swimmers huddle underwater to prepare to lift a teammate out of the water.

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Synchronised swimming can be performed in solos, duets, and team formats, according to FINA.


Synchronised swimmers also perform "throws," an acrobatic movement where a swimmer is launched out of the water with the help of multiple teammates.

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FINA requires synchronised swimming routines to include at least four acrobatic movements, including throws like this one.


Some synchronised swimmers can even appear to walk on water.

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Teamwork makes the dream work - and creates the illusion that this swimmer is strutting across the pool's surface.


These swimmers somehow make going for a jog on the surface of the water look effortless.

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Canada's synchronised swim team performed a routine with running-like movements at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.


From above, their technique is equally impressive.

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Read more: 36 of the most iconic Olympic photographs of all time


Even their out-of-water movements make for stunning, sculptural shapes.

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The teams are allotted just 10 seconds for their deck, or on-land, movements, according to FINA.


Whether the routines feature artistic leaps...

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Notice how the swimmer's toes are perfectly pointed.


...or striking, pencil-inspired flips, precision and pointed toes are key to nailing the perfect synchronised swim performance.

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These swimmers are perfectly in unison with their mind-blowing vertical movements.


Being extremely flexible probably doesn't hurt, either.

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Synchronised swimming is the perfect storm of aerobic exercise and dance.


Above the surface, synchronised swimmers create gorgeous patterns with their legs.

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Synchronised swimmers often create patterns that alternate back and forth, giving what FINA calls a kaleidoscopic effect.


Below the surface, they tread water upside-down with their eyes open and breath held.

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Synchronised swimmers at the professional or Olympic level regularly hold their breath underwater for around a minute, according to the International Olympic Committee. They also open their eyes underwater, as goggles are banned from use during competitions.


This overhead shot makes it look like the swimmers are touching the floor of the pool, but it's an illusion.

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Teams get points deducted if swimmers touch the bottom of the pool during the routine.


What goes on below the surface of the water is truly mind-blowing.

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Imagine doing all of this and not being allowed to come to the surface for a gulp of air.


Doesn't it look like this swimmer could reach out and touch her reflection?

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The crisp reflection makes it hard to tell if this routine is a solo or a duet.


This snap from the 2012 Olympic Games in London captures a similar effect.

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The swimmers' reflections give the most breathtaking illusion.


This spectacular shot makes it hard to tell if the swimmer is in the air or touching the surface of the water.

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Synchronised swimmers in the Olympics and FINA-mandated events are required to perform certain technical elements such as acrobatic movements and lifts in a specific order.


This swimmer, who's being launched into the air, looks like she's parallel with the pool floor.

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This movement requires an incredible amount of balance.


The swimmers have a lot to achieve in just a few minutes of performance time.

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Team routines cannot exceed four minutes, and solos and duets are usually two or three minutes, according to FINA.


Moments from synchronised swimming routines never cease to amaze.

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Fans of synchronised swimming can get excited for more spectacular, artistic moments at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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