Men set to compete in artistic swimming for the very first time at upcoming Olympics

Artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, is entering the world of gender politics.

In an attempt to squash stereotypes it opened its doors to male athletes to compete in the upcoming Summer Games in Paris. The inclusion of men in the sport at the Olympics is seen as an interesting move at a time when Olympic games are losing relevance.

One of the prominent male athletes in the field is Bill May, a seasoned synchronized swimmer who has competed at the lower levels for years. May believes that allowing men to participate in the sport will attract more male athletes and boost the overall appeal of artistic swimming.

He told AP:

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and attract more men,” May told the Associated Press at the World Aquatics Championships. “By keeping men out you’re limiting the sport. By including men you’re going to see an upshift in the popularity and the numbers.”

The sport has evolved significantly from its earlier image of water ballet with flowery caps and permanent smiles. Today, it features acrobatic team events with lifts, throws, flips, and diving routines launched from the shoulders of teammates treading water below. The physical demands of the sport are considerable, and athletes face the risk of concussions.

Unfortunately, male participants often confront stereotypes and negative perceptions. Many of them have faced bullying and hate due to their gender choice in pursuing artistic swimming. Despite the challenges, male athletes like Kenny Gaudet from the United States have successfully broken through and earned their place in the sport they love.

The inclusion of men in artistic swimming is not only an opportunity for them but also for the sport itself. Adam Andrasko, the head of USA Artistic Swimming, has been actively recruiting male athletes to build a strong foundation for growth. Countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, China, Spain, and Italy have embraced male swimmers and contributed to the expansion of the sport.

While there is excitement about men’s participation in artistic swimming, some concerns remain. Andrasko fears that men might be overshadowed by the strong presence of female athletes, who have been dominating the sport for years.

“There aren’t a lot of countries with strong males,” in the international competition, Andrasko said, noting men often lack the flexibility to compete. “So you might not see a lot of males swimming in the Olympics. I’m concerned it goes to the Olympic Games and we don’t see a male participating. I definitely have that fear.”

“To this point,” he added, “women are still far better at this sport than a man.”

However, two-time American Olympian Anita Alvarez dismisses any notion of acrimony, emphasizing the positive impact of inclusion on inspiring young boys and girls to dream of becoming Olympians.