June 14, 2024
Tiger Woods

Only two Olympians have caused a small earthquake in the recent Olympic movement without enjoying it: Tiger Woods and Bill May. The fame of the former avoids introductions. It was his massive figure that inclined the International Olympic Committee to propose golf’s presence at the Rio Olympics 112 years after its last appearance. It was approved in 2009, when it was almost incontestable that Tiger was not going to extend his dominance beyond five years. He never appeared.

May got the rule change in 2022 for men to appear in artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized, at Paris 2024. It was by far the biggest benchmark in a sport where women were 99 percent of the athletes. It was the culmination of more than three decades of effort and dedication in a specialty in which she went from misunderstood to rara avis and, finally, to a symbol of struggle.

The bad thing is that the barrier was broken already at an adult age, 43 years old -now 45- and being part of a selection process in the U.S. team, led by the Spanish Andrea Fuentes, May fought against nature, against young women twice his age and where selecting him in the team of eight components, surely was giving away pieces to the opponent.

“It’s almost another sport”
Fuentes’ team, a lifelong admirer of May, opted to leave him at home. “He’s a great human being, not only as a swimmer but as a person. But you have to do what’s best for the team,” Fuentes expounded in The New York Times.
Artistic swimming has changed a lot, “it’s almost another sport,” explains Mayuko Fujiki, the Spanish coach. Technically, it is now much more difficult; the evaluation now is not dazzled as it once was by a country’s acronym or, in this case, by a novelty that would have been fabulous. In the cut of this weekend did not pass the filter, the group has been reduced from 12 to 9 (the eight and an alternate) and will not compete in Paris.

May is happy for all that she has achieved. Since the International Athletics Federation introduced the mixed duet in Kazan (Russia) in 2015, no less, her medal collection has been thick.
One gold, two silvers and three bronzes, the last two in acrobatic routine – silver in Fukuoka, bronze in Doha – have allowed her figure to transcend beyond the core of her sport.

His return to the sport, from which he had been away for a decade with forays into the Cirque du Soleil water show, was thunderous. He was the true leader of an almost countercultural movement, which, on the male side, was mired in often stifling social cliches.

Seven-hour-a-day workouts, trips to the extreme of the impossible in freediving and a fabulous demand in the sport that most expresses group feeling have stitched her life together.

“I didn’t choose synchronized swimming (then). She chose me. She was waiting for me,” he answers to explain to people why he entered the sport at the age of 10 in Syracuse, when he jumped into the pool because his sister practiced it.

“They’ve never made me feel old, except when we talk about movies, music or things that used to exist, like a phone booth,” he says to refer to his female companions, some of whom are still minors.

Regrets close this story that will not erase May’s pioneering character from memory.
“To finally have the opportunity for men to appear in the Olympics, to know that sport is finally inclusive, and not to see that representation, it’s almost like a slap in the face,” she said. In the rest of the countries, there is still no level to see a man being part of the octets with the most plasticity in the sport.

“Unfortunately, the rules of artistic swimming only allow eight athletes to swim all three routines,” Adam Andrasko, the executive director of the U.S. Artistics, said in a statement. “We will continue to celebrate Bill and support male participation throughout the sport while celebrating the story of these eight incredible women.”

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