The World Championships saw some grounbreaking performances, and history being made in artistic swimming.
Bill May, 44, became the first American man to win a world team medal, joining the U.S. team that claimed silver in the acrobatic routine. It was the first U.S. medal in artistic swimming since 2007. That in itself would have been a huge deal, but the trailblazing performance of May made it one of the most important performances in artistic swimming history.
“This is an incredible step forward for our sport,” May told USA Artistic Swimming.
While men were previously not allowed in team events, there have been men’s categories and a mixed duet category, though the latter is not an Olympic event. May was a world medalist in mixed duets in 2015 and 2017. He is one of eigth people on the U.S. team.
“I didn’t want to be 60 years old and say, you know, I had this opportunity to maybe go for it, and I didn’t,” May told NBC Sports. “Whereas now I can say, It might’ve been the most difficult year of my life, but I went for it. I have no regrets, I enjoyed every second of it.”
This is the first year that men were permitted to compete in artistic team events at the World Championships, taking place in Fukuoka, Japan. Men will also be able to compete at the Olympics in a team event for the first time next year in Paris.
The U.S. scored a 232.4033 to finish behind China (238.0033). Japan won the bronze (220.5867). In the Team Technical, the U.S. claimed the bronze with 273.7396 points, finishing behind Spain (281.6893) and Italy (274.5155).
The U.S. will attempt over the next seven months to qualify for the Olympic artistic swimming team event for the first time since 2008.
It must either win the Pan American Games in October and November or finish among the top five at the February 2024 World Championships out of nations not already qualified for Paris.
While Monday’s silver medal is promising, Olympic qualification is based on combined results from acrobatic, technical and free programs.
There were several other elite performances during the World Championships.
In the men’s solo technical, Spain’s Fernando Diz Del Rio Soto won gold at 224.5550, ahead of U.S. silver medalist Kenneth Gaudet (216.8000) and Kazakstan’s Eduard Kim (216.0000).
Gaudet also claimed the bronze in the men’s free (179.5562), finishing behind Spain’s Dennis Gonzalez Boneu (193.0334) and Colombia’s Gustavo Sanchez (189.9625).
Japan’s Yukiko Unui won the gold medal in the Women’s Solo Technical with a score of 276.5717. Vasiliki Alexandri of Austria won the silver (264.4200) and Spain’s Iris Tio Casas claimed the bronze (254.2100).
Inui also won the Women’s Solo free with a gold-medal performance of 254.6062. Alexandri again won silver at 229.3251 and Great Britain’s Kate Shortman claimed the bronze, the first medal for a solo female in GB history.
In the Women Duet Technical, Japan’s Moe Higa and Mashiro Yasunaga claimed goald with a score of 273.9500. Italy’s Linda Cerruti and Lucrezia Ruggiero took the silver (263.0334), while Spain’s Tio Casas and Alisa Ozhogina Ozhogin took the bronze (257.8368).
In the Mixed Duet Technical, Japan’s Tomoka Sato and Yotaro Sato earned gold with a 255.5066. The silver went to Spain’s Emma Garcia and Gonzalez Boneu (248.0499), while the bronze wnt to Cheng Wentao and Shi Hayou (247.3033).
Cheng and Shi won the Mixed Duet Free gold medal with a score of 225.1020. Mexico’s Itzamary Gonzalez Cuellar and Diego Villalobos Carrillo took the silver (192.5500) and Gonzalez Boneu and Mireia Hernandez Luna won the bronze (183.4207).
China won the team free gold (329.1687), followed by Japan (217.8085) and Ukraine (256.2415). The U.S. took ninth (218.6605).
But the U.S. and the world took a huge step as men helped make this event truly global.