Artistic swimming | Bill May wants to become the first artistic swimmer at the Olympics

(Paris) Unknown to the general public, the American Bill May nevertheless has the opportunity to make history this weekend in Saint-Denis where he will try to obtain his Olympic selection in artistic swimming: he would then be the first man to participate in this mixed event for the first time at the Paris Games.

He will have to prove himself from Saturday in the French stage of the Artistic Swimming World Cup, a competition organized in Saint-Denis which is also the first test event for the brand new Aquatic Center in the northern suburbs of Paris where the Games will take place in three months.

To win his ticket, May, aged 45, will have to convince the coach to choose him alongside the seven Americans who will compete at the Games in the team event, the only one to which he can apply, because there is no men’s individual event at the Games.

“It’s something that I didn’t think I could do during my career,” this pioneer of the discipline told AFP, who hopes to “inspire other male athletes or other athletes who want to represent diversity in any sport.”

May began artistic swimming at the age of 10 and initially formed a duo with her sister. “I walked out to the edge of the pool and never looked back. I was always supported,” he recalled during an interview with AFP in Eaubonne, at the Americans’ base camp during the Games.

He later won the United States Championship in pairs and was named Swimmer of the Year in synchronized swimming (the former name for artistic swimming) in 1998 and 1999.

As the Games were not open to men, he preferred to hang up his competitive pince-nez and practice his aquatic talent at Cirque du Soleil.

Ten years retired

But when the International Swimming Federation changed its regulations to include men in the 2015 World Championships in Kazakhstan, he decided to dive back into the deep end of competition, after more than ten years of retirement.

On July 26, 2015, he became the first man to win a gold medal in an artistic swimming event, that of technique, in a major competition, in a duet with Christina Jones.

His Olympic dream was born when a friend announced to him just before Christmas 2022 that synchronized swimming was going to enter the Olympic program. “He said to me on the phone “so, are you going for it?” and I said “yes, this is my life”! “, he recalls.

At the 2017 Worlds in Fukuoka, 2023 in Budapest and Doha last February, his ambition was strengthened by new podiums.

The problem for May, apart from her age, is that there is only one team competition at the Olympic Games, the ranking of which is established by the accumulation of scores for the three disciplines –– technical, free and acrobatic – whereas at the Worlds there is one for each discipline.

However, if the American is appreciated in the technical event for the power of his lifts, he must still convince the coach that his level is sufficient without the two other disciplines.


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