Bill May, a 36-year-old Cirque du Soleil performer who took up synchronized swimming at age 10 and came out of a 10-year retirement last year, received his first chance to compete at the World Aquatics Championships on Sunday with men debuting in synchro this year in Kazan, Russia.
And he nailed it.
May and partner Christina Jones, a 2008 Olympian, won the first mixed duet technical World Championship, one year after FINA announced it would add mixed-gender synchronized swimming events to Worlds for the first time. That’s what prompted May’s unretirement.
“It’s unreal, a dream come true!” May said, according to Agence-France Presse. “I never thought this would happen because I retired from synchro 10 years ago.
“So being able to do this has been a long time in the making. The sport is finally recognizing men, and it feels great. I have been stubborn and it has paid off.”
May and Jones totaled 88.5108 points after their 2 1/2-minute routine (watch it here), beating a Russian pair by .2122 points.
Men are still not allowed to compete in Olympic synchronized swimming.
“I definitely think that this is the natural progression of synchronized swimming,” Jones said in a FINA interview. “I think that this is the future, and I think it’s only about time that the men get a chance to enter the sport on a World stage as well.”
May and 2000 Olympian Kristina Lum Underwood will compete in the mixed duet free event Tuesday.