Artistic swimmer Parliament makes a big splash

By Janet Wight

Among senior swimmers, St. Anthony Park resident Claudia Kutzler Parliament is an elite competitor.

In October, Kutzler Parliament captured first place in the 80-89 age group Solo Free Final at the USA Artistic Swimming Masters Championship in Oro Valley, Arizona.

Parliament, a retired professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, has decades of experience in this sport, formerly known as synchronized swimming.

She attended St. Louis Park High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when there were few athletic opportunities for girls. The Surfbelles synchronized swimming team was one of the few options, she said. She won the solo event during the first state high school competition held in 1961.

As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Parliament joined the aquatic league, a non-competitive synchronized swimming club. Many years later, in 1991, a group of former Surfbelles organized a show to celebrate the career and retirement of their beloved coach, Sally Callahan. Parliament learned about the Masters program during preparation for the show and was inspired to return to the sport.

Artistic swimming has long been a family affair for Parliament and her two sisters, Bonnie Kutzler Buxton and Joanne Kutzler. All of them have extensive experience in the sport both as skilled participants and coaches. Parliament and Buxton won the masters duet competition in 1993, and the three sisters have also done trios.

Kutzler provided the choreography for Parliament’s award-winning solo this year. It was performed to a classic version of Irving Berlin’s 1954 song “Sisters,” sung by Bette Midler and Linda Ronstadt, an appropriate choice for the close-knit Kutzler clan.

Parliament explained it is challenging to write good routines, as special talent is required to ensure that all of the elements and requirements are included within the confines of the music.

Since artistic swimming scores are based on a combination of execution, artistic impression and difficulty, technical proficiency is essential.

In order to prepare for the rigors of competition, Parliament’s training regimen includes weightlifting, hiking and Pilates, in addition to her frequent sessions in the pool.

Parliament also leads an exercise class in her cooperative senior housing community to encourage other members to stay active.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. Find something that you really like and pursue it with vigor,” she advised. 

Janet Wight lives in the Como Park neighborhood an is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.

Photo cutline: Claudia Kutzler Parliament shows off her medals from the USA Artistic Swimming Masters Championship. Photo by Jay Weiner.

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