The Walnut Creek Aquanuts synchronized swimming club was recently named one of the Top 60 acts on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” advancing to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall for live competition.
Which is still mind-boggling for at least one of the Aquanuts.
“It has all been really surreal,” saidMcKinzie Chelberg, 19. “I moved to California from Minnesota one year ago to join the Aquanuts, and now I’m performing for Heidi Klum. I actually still pinch myself every day.”
The Aquanuts, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., are considered one of the most prestigious synchronized swimming clubs in the world, having produced numerous Olympians while winning more than 200 national and world titles since its creation in 1968. Just this year, the Aquanuts won the senior team title at the SwimOutlet.com U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Championships in April.
The Aquanuts competing on the show are: Morgan Boneberg, Sofia Bouzos, McKinzie Chelberg, Alyson Haylor, Sarah House, Jamie Kuchan, Suying Rothrock and Alexa Tchekmarev. Boneberg, Chelberg, Kuchan and Tchekmarev also competed as part of a U.S. National Team that won the silver medal at the U.S. Open in Irving, Texas, earlier this month.
Walnut Creek auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” in New Orleans, which proved to be a whirlwind, according to Haylor.
“We had to reconstruct our routine to fit within the 90-second time constraint and travel with all our underwater music equipment just in case it didn’t synch with the ‘America’s Got Talent’ equipment,” said Haylor. “We arrived at the pool at 9 a.m. and finished our audition and returned back to the hotel with only about two hours for the girls to shower and get on a shuttle back to the airport early the next morning. But the thrill of performing for the judges with all the lights and people was incredible, and of course meeting (host) Nick Cannon was awesome, too.”
“After our performance in New Orleans the judges told us they thought synchronized swimming would be a very special addition to ‘America’s Got Talent,'” said Aquanuts coach Kim Probst, a 2008 Olympic captain who has been named USA Synchro’s Coach of the Year several times. “They loved the performance and they think America will, too. Now we have to keep training and waiting for our next opportunity to show America what we can do.”
The team impressed judges Klum, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern by competing in high heels.
So where did the high heels come from?
“In the ’90s our rival club put on a huge swim show, and one of the numbers was dedicated to the Spice Girls because they were hugely popular then,” Probst said. “The girls were swimming in platforms and neon tennis shoes and completely outrageous costumes. So I guess you can say the original inspiration came from Mel B!”
“Our specific routine is all heels (no tennis shoes!). For our audition we used music from the movie ‘Burlesque,’ but we’ll need to take it to the next level to continue to move on. Everything will need to be 10 times more glamorous than we’ve ever imagined. That’s what we’re working on now!”
The live competition from New York starts Tuesday, July 23, at 9/8c on NBC. For more information on “America’s Got Talent,” visit www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent.