U.S. Artistic Swimming Qualifies for Team Event in Olympics for First Time Since 2008; Bill May Could Head to Paris

Team USA celebrates after winning bronze in the acrobatic final on Tuesday; Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

U.S. Artistic Swimming Qualifies for Team Event in Olympics for First Time Since 2008

The United States finished third on Friday in the mixed team artistic swimming competition at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, earning a spot at the Paris Olympics.

It’s the first time that the U.S. has qualified for the Olympics since 2008, when it placed fifth. This is also the first Olympics in which the event is a mixed team, with up to two men permitted on the roster. It had previously been only female athletes.

That opens the door for Bill May, a 45-year-old veteran of the global circuit, to compete at the Olympics for the first time. May was the first man to win a Worlds medal in team artistic swimming when he earned silver in the acrobatic routine with the U.S. last summer in Fukuoka.

This week’s bronze was May’s sixth career Worlds medal, including gold in the mixed duet technical routine in 2015 (with Christina Jones). That was the first Worlds at which men could compete.

Artistic swimming at the World Championships is much more extensive than at the Olympics. Worlds includes six performances – preliminaries and finals in the acrobatic, technical and free routines – over seven days, with three medal events. The Olympic competition used to comprise only two performance, a technical routine and a free routine, to generate a single medal podium. The Paris Games will add a third acrobatic routine.

As a result, rosters for Worlds allow 12 athletes, with eight performing each routine. The Olympics allow only a team of eight. May was the only male athlete on the U.S. roster.

Olympic spots went to the teams with the five highest aggregate scores over the three routines. Doha was the U.S.’s last chance to qualify for the Olympics.

May helped the U.S. win bronze on Sunday in the acrobatic routine. He was not part of the octet that finished fourth in the technical final on Tuesday or that grabbed bronze Friday in the free routine.

Four swimmers – Anita Alvarez, Daniella Ramirez, Calista Liu and Jamie Czarkowski – took part in all four finals. Megumi Field, Audrey Kwon, Jacklyn Luu and Keana Hunter competed in two each, with Kwon on both medal-winning squads.

Of the 12 teams competing in each of the three finals – that is, 288 total athletes – May was one of only three men, with Nicolas Campos of Chile and Giorgio Minsini of Italy. All three competed only in the acrobatic final.

The U.S. returning to the Olympics is a big deal in itself, particularly with the normally dominant Russian teams unlikely to be in Paris. The U.S. won gold in the team event in its inaugural competition at the 1996 Olympics and bronze in 2004.

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