Men are eligible for Olympic artistic swimming for the first time at the 2024 Paris Games, the IOC confirmed Thursday.
Up to two men per country will be allowed in the eight-person team event, though nations may still elect to send all-woman teams.
Artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, has been on the Olympic program since 1984.
“The inclusion of men in Olympic artistic swimming was once considered the impossible dream,” 43-year-old American Bill May, considered a pioneer in men’s artistic swimming, said in a press release. “This proves that we should all dream big. The male athletes have endured. Now, through their perseverance and the help and support of so many, all athletes may stand alongside each other equally, reaching for Olympic glory.”
In October, World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming events, amended its rules to allow up to two men per country in the artistic team event at competitions including the Olympics.
But it still needed IOC approval to change the previously published rules for the 2024 Paris Games.
The IOC said in November that it was working with World Aquatics “to understand their long term development plans for the integration of men into artistic swimming, and the opportunities that may exist for men to compete in artistic swimming at the Olympic Games.”
On Thursday, the IOC said in a statement, “The Olympic Programme Commission has reviewed the World Aquatics (formerly FINA) rule change for Artistic Swimming and confirmed that the event would be listed as Open for Paris 2024.”
Rhythmic gymnastics is now the lone discipline that is not open to men at the Olympics. Nordic combined, a Winter Games event, is the lone sport that is not open to women at the Olympics.
Since 2015, the world championships in artistic swimming have included a mixed duet with one male swimmer and female swimmer, an event that is not on the Olympic program.
U.S. artistic swimming head coach Andrea Fuentes said this fall that she was looking forward to having men in her athlete pool for the team event.
“We have males ready to swim, but there are other countries who have not,” Fuentes said, adding that she will decide whether to enter men in upcoming team competitions to test them out. “I want inclusion. … If I have the opportunity to do it, I will for sure use it.”
The current U.S. national team includes 25 athletes: 24 women and one man: Kenny Gaudet, an 18-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, recently highlighted by the Los Angeles Times. Gaudet has competed in solo and duet events, plus is part of the U.S. team in the acrobatic routine that World Aquatics announced last month will be added to the Olympic event for Paris.
May, who last competed in 2021 and now coaches the Santa Clara Aquamaids program in California, said he learned of male Olympic inclusion via text message from a World Aquatics artistic swimming official on Oct. 20. May described his reaction as “an explosion. Not just for me. For the sport.”
The U.S. still must qualify for the 10-nation 2024 Olympic team event. It failed to reach the last three Olympics. It missed the Tokyo Games by one spot and .2108 of a point in a last-chance qualifier.
At this past summer’s world championships, the U.S. placed sixth in the technical routine, ninth in the free routine and fifth in the highlight (acrobatic) routine, the three events that will make up future Olympic competition. That was its best combined result at a worlds since 2007, the last year it qualified for the Olympic team event.
For 2024, the winner of the 2023 Pan American Games qualifies for the Olympics. The U.S. is expected to contend with Canada and Mexico for that spot.
If the U.S. does not win Pan Ams, its last shot to qualify will be the February 2024 World Championships. The top five nations among those not already qualified via continental championships will round out the 10-nation Olympic field.
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