Swimming-No male artistic swimmers at Olympics after U.S. leave May out of squad

  • Swimming
  • Saturday, 08 Jun 2024

FILE PHOTO: People watch as former British Olympic artistic swimmers Asha George and Katie Clark together with Sisy Wang and Emily Kuhl, all of Aquabatix, perform in a large water tank to mark 100 days before the 2024 Paris Olympic Games starts, at Covent Garden in London, Britain, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

(Reuters) -Despite World Aquatics' bold move to let men compete in artistic swimming at the Olympics, there will be no male swimmers among the 10 countries in the team event in Paris, after the United States left pioneer Bill May out of their squad.

World Aquatics said it was very disappointed that there would be no men in the Olympic competition.

"This should have been a landmark moment for the sport," the global federation said in a statement. "We understand that it was always going to be a challenge for men to earn a spot on a team in time for Paris 2024, considering that their eligibility was only confirmed 18 months ago, but we were still hopeful that some would succeed."

World Aquatics announced in 2022 that men would be allowed to compete in artistic swimming at the July 26-Aug. 11 Games, with each country permitted two male swimmers in the eight-athlete team event.

Artistic -- formerly known as synchronised -- swimming made its Olympic debut in 1984 and, while it had been open only to women until now, men have been permitted to compete at the World Aquatics Championships since 2015.

The 45-year-old May has long been one of the leading voices on male inclusion, telling reporters in April, "Every day I think about the Olympics and I think about being there with our coaches and our team mates. It's such a dream."

But one that it seems will not be realised.

May, who was battling for a spot with women half his age, was part of the squad at the World Aquatics Championships in February and helped the U.S. to win silver in the acrobatic routine at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, becoming the first American male to climb the world medal podium in a team event.

"All of us in the artistic swimming community need to work even harder to progress opportunities for male athletes in the sport," World Aquatics said in its statement.

"We are absolutely determined that there will be male artistic swimmers in the team competition at Los Angeles 2028, and we also continue to work on a proposal to add a mixed duet competition to the Olympic programme in time for those Games."

The American team is made up of Anita Alvarez, Daniella Ramirez, Megumi Field, Jamie Czarkowski, Jacklyn Luu, Audrey Kwon, Keana Hunter, Ruby Remati and alternate Calista Liu.

"To select the final eight athletes plus one alternate, we created an environment designed to detect the highest levels of the values that define our team philosophy," U.S. coach Andrea Fuentes said in a media release. "Combined with their physical and technical abilities, this process led us to select the team that will best represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

"Each member of this Olympic Team embodies the highest levels of excellence, resilience, and unity that define us," she added. "Together, they carry the hopes of a nation, and together we will strive for our best performances and make you all proud this summer."

May, who took up the sport at the age of 10 with his sister and has performed with contemporary circus producers Cirque du Soleil, was the sport's first male world champion in the inaugural mixed duet technical event in 2015.

Italy's omission of Giorgio Minisini from their Olympic plans earlier this year raised eyebrows among many in the sport, leaving May as the last chance for a male swimmer in Paris.

The 28-year-old Minisini won the mixed duet technical route at both the 2017 and 2022 world championships.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)

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