This man could swim with the women at the Paris Olympics and be the first to win a medal

This discipline, although present for several decades on the Olympic program, has never crowned a man.

This man could swim with the women at the Paris Olympics and be the first to win a medal

This discipline, although present for several decades on the Olympic program, has never crowned a man. Bille May could be the first.

Formerly reserved only for men, the Olympic Games have gradually opened up to diversity. In 1900, only 22 women were present among the 997 athletes in Paris. However, certain events have remained reserved for men for a very long time in the Olympic program.

Thus, boxing was reserved for men at the Olympic Games from 1896 to 2012 and the London Games. It was only on this date that women's boxing entered the Olympic fold. Before that, the IOC had, in its Charter, taken a first step towards greater equality by imposing men's and women's events for any sport wishing to become Olympic. Despite these efforts, in 2016, parity in the number of athletes was still not achieved, with 45% women among the athletes present at the Rio Games.

Conversely, an Olympic discipline has long been prohibited for men. Integrated into the Olympic program during the Los Angeles Games in 1984, synchronized swimming, or artistic swimming, is a duo or team event of eight. While there was indeed a women's duo event and a men's event, the team event was until now reserved for women. During the Paris Games next July, men could finally participate, for the first time, in these events. But not in a separate category: the IOC has decided that the team synchronized swimming event will be mixed!

On the American swimming team, Bill May hopes to be the first man to participate in this event and perhaps win a medal. At 47, this former professional swimmer came out of retirement in 2015 when the discipline gradually opened up to men. He was in fact banned from competing in synchronized swimming by the International Swimming Federation in 2004. It was therefore a dream for him to one day participate in the Olympic Games.

"I retired for ten years. And then in 2015 they added the men to the world championships for the mixed duet. It was something I had always wanted to do, but never had had the opportunity I think it was a great opportunity for me, but also for our sport, to show its growth, its acceptance,” the 47-year-old swimmer told AFP.

If Russia has won every title in artistic swimming since the Sydney Games in 2000, the United States has still won four Olympic gold medals, and maintains a chance of a medal this summer in Paris. Bill May will have to be part of the selection, which will be official in May.

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