Synchronized - After wistfully watching Rio, men hope for Tokyo inclusion

Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:48pm EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) - Cirque du Soleil performer Bill May sneaked peaks at the synchronized swimming competitions in Rio on his phone during makeup sessions and costume changes at the Las Vegas show.

But May is not just a fan smitten by the discipline's seemingly impossible underwater twists, graceful lifts out of the pool and sequin-studded costumes.

May, a synchronized swimmer who won gold at the World Championships technical mixed duets last year with partner Christina Jones, longed to be in the Rio pool himself but could not because mixed duets are not allowed at the Olympics.

Buoyed by their acceptance at the Championships last year, male synchronized swimmers such as May are now lobbying for an Olympic shake-up of the currently all-female discipline at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"There's no way a sport can grow without including everyone. To exclude people ... it almost seems a little archaic," said May, originally a gymnast who picked up synchronized swimming thanks to his sister.

Despite the push, it remains unclear if mixed duets will be included in the next Summer Games.

Swimming's world governing body FINA said in an e-mail to Reuters it "has always proposed that the IOC align the Olympic program with the FINA World Championships program", but added the decision is ultimately down to the International Olympic Committee.

A spokesperson for the IOC said the committee's executive board would decide on event programs for Tokyo next year.   Continued...

Christina Jones and Bill May of the U.S. perform in the synchronised swimming mixed duet technical final at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia, July 26, 2015.         REUTERS/Michael Dalder