Karen And Sarah Josephson (USA)
Honor Synchronized / Artistic Swimmer (1997)
FOR THE RECORD: 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (duet); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (duet); 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (duet, team); 1991 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (duet, team); 1991 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (duet, team); 1983 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: silver (team); 1987 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: gold (duet, team); 1985 FINA WORLD CUP: silver (duet, team); 1987 FINA WORLD CUP: gold (team), silver (duet); 1991 FINA WORLD CUP: gold (duet, team); USSS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (16): 7 (duet), 6 (team), 3 (trio); NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (8): 3 (duet), 2 (team), 3 (trio).
SARAH: 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: 6th (figures); 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: 3rd (figures); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: 2nd (figures); 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (solo, figures); 1985 FINA WORLD CUP: silver (solo); USSS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (2): (solo).
KAREN: 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th (figures); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: 3rd (figures); NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (2): (solo).
They are not the average “Jo’s”, and to their competitors they were “double trouble.” In a sport where timing must be within 1/18 of a second, the career paths of these two synchronized swimmers, like their genes, were identical. They grew and blossomed in a sport where togetherness is everything and where every move must be made as if you are one. Identical twins Karen and Sarah Josephson made the moves on synchronized swimming, engulfing the world, not only with their athletic timing and skill, but with the style and grace of true champions. They join Margo McGrath and Carol Redmond of the San Francisco Merrionettes as only the second synchronized swimming duet team to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
They started synchronized swimming at age 5, in 1969, in the Girls’ Club of Bristol, Connecticut, their hometown. By 1977, they shifted to the Rocky Hill, Connecticut School of Swimming with coach Sue Bevier, and then, after making the 1980 national team, began training in Hamden, Connecticut (Heronettes) to be with national team coach Linda Lichter. Their careers began to take off. Junior National Champs in 1980, Senior National – 6th place and second to Hall of Famers Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie at the National Sports Festival in 1981, plus other US Zone and Junior National meets put the Josephson name on the board.
In 1982, while Sarah was winning a team silver medal at the World Championships in Guayaquil, Equador, Karen won the Mallorca Open team silver medal. It was their first year competing on the Ohio State University Synchronized Swimming team where they went on to be undefeated in collegiate competitions and graduate with academic honors in 1985. At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, they helped win the team silver medal.
Their sights were set on the 1984 Olympic Games, and the twins never thought of making the team without the other. But with Sarah’s slightly higher score in the figures at the Olympic Trials, she made the team as an alternate to what became the gold medal winning duet team of Ruiz and Costie.
Sarah and Karen are the toughest of competitors towards one another, but they are also the best of friends. “We really don’t mind getting beat as long as one of us wins,” they say. So while Sarah competed in the Los Angeles Games, Karen traveled with a US team to Mallorca, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
“Karen and Sarah are very calm and easy going”, says their mom, Beryl. But at 5′ 4″ and 120 lbs., they are energy-packed machines who can perform a routine with more sharpness, crispness, fluidity, style and synchronization to each other and the music than almost all of their competitors. Following their 1985 graduation from Ohio State (Karen in Genetics, Sarah in Biochemistry) where they helped their team win the National Championships in the 1982, 1983 and 1985, the grads moved to Walnut Creek, California, to train with National Team and Olympic coach Gail Emery. After Tracie’s and Candy’s Olympic gold medal performance in 1984, the “J’s” were ready to step in, as the gold medal pair retired. In 1985, they won the French Invitational and the US Nationals duet, and Sarah won three major solo competitions. At the 1986 Barcelona World Championships, they won silvers in all events, Sarah in the solos. In 1987, they were Pan American champions and FINA world Cup silver medalists. All was in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympiad where their eyes were set on defeating Canada’s Michele Cameron and Hall of Famer Carolyn Waldo. They had defeated them in duet competition only once, at the Japan Lotte Cup in 1986. In every other competition, the “J’s” scored higher in the routine but the Canadians won it with better scores in figures. The gold medal was not be for the “J’s” as Waldo and Cameron duet outscored them again in the figures.
They were very happy with the silver medal, but as with every champion, the desire to win the gold medal never diminished, and after a month’s rest they decided to pursue the 1992 Olympic and the gold medal in Barcelona. During the four years between Seoul and Barcelona, they never lost a competition. That included the Pan Pacifics, Goodwill Games, US Nationals, Olympic Festivals, The German, Mallorca and Rome Opens, the US Olympic Trials, and the Perth world Championships where they set the world record for the highest total duet score.
In Barcelona, they lived up to their own and other’s expectations, winning the gold medal in the duet event, the last time the event will be contested in Olympic competition.
The Josephson Twins are the epitome of synchronization. Whether right side up or upside down, they brought imagination, excitement and beauty to synchronized swimming. They achieved what every synchronized simmer aspires to achieve, the coveted Olympic duet gold medal, won by only two competitors every four years. They have received every synchronized swimming award available and other awards in general, including ESPN/Revco’s Co-Collegiate Athletes of the Year (1985) and as AAU Sullivan Award finalists.
Their 22 years in synchronized swimming, 12 of them on the National Team, are an inspiration to every aspiring athlete. It may still be difficult to tell them apart from one another, but it is easy to tell them apart from their competitors.