Marion Kane Elston, one of the most successful and influential coaches in the history of synchronizedth at the age of 81. IN the 1960’s and early 1970’s, her San Francisco Merionettes displayed technical skill and artistic flair in winning 67 U.S. National AAU titles (18 solo, 27 duet, 22 team) and 29 major international titles, including the 1971 Pan American Games.
Elston began swimming by playing in the Russian River in Northern California at age 3. She was very successful as a speed swimmer when she was young, but wanted a more creative endeavor and turned her attention to synchronized swimming. Elston’s routines were known for their innovative choreography, suberb showmanship and a great blend of music and movement. She pioneered the “support scull” that is an essential part of synchro to this day, allowing the swimmers to remain at a high level while upside down in the water.
She was instrumental in developing synchro around the world by giving numerous clinics and demonstrations all over the globe. Her National Champion swimmers Margo McGrath and Carol Redmond spent almost a year teaching and touring in Europe in 1967-68, greatly advancing the sport there. She authored the first Judges’ Training Guide in 1964 to help develop standards for judges in the United States, and the first Meet Managers’ Guide that same year to aid in hosting an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) meet. She choreographed 32 former synchro swimmers for the aquacade sequences in the film Funny Lady, starring Barbra Streisand. She also directed 35 swimmers for the 1984 World’s Fair Aquacade in New Orleans that was seen by more than 3.5 million people.
After years of being “retired” from coaching, she returned to coaching masters in the mid-1990’s. She quickly was back in the full swing of coaching, with her Oak Park, CA, based team ranging from young age group swimmers to masters. Her death was discovered when she did not arrive at a masters’ morning practice.
She was inducted into the United States Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1967 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1981. A memorial service will be held October 10th.