(Santa Clara, California) June 24, 2004 - Synchronized swimming requires strength and flexibility, grace, creativity and - oh, yeah - you have to be female if you want to compete in the Olympics.
But, the person recognized by many as America's best competitor is a guy, Bill May. He was a member of the Santa Clara Aquamaids and a US national champion. At one time or another Bill's beaten just about every competitor going to Athens.
This summer he wanted the chance to compete in a new category, mixed pairs, but the US Synchronized Swimming Federation decided not to ask for the event. May says, "It was a huge disappointment and it was very humbling. ... It's a political sport in that it's kind of like a clique at school."
There's been talk of dropping synchronized swimming from the Olympics, and some believe the fact it's a women-only sport keeps it in the games. The theory, by pushing to allow Bill May and a new mixed pairs event in the games, the sport could be pushed right out of the Olympics.
Olympic synchronized swimming coach Chris Carver says, "If we get too controversial, maybe we would be the ones to go, and we don't want to be the ones to go."
May started his career at age 10 just goofing around after swim practice, "It was a joke," but he ended up falling in love with the sport. He spent the next 16 years enduring long practices and ridicule for choosing a girl's sport, but May was clear with his critics, "I'm here to stay, and, you know, what I want to do has nothing to do with anything you can say to me."
Carver supports the male swimmer, "If they did listen to me, he'd be in." She says the US federation supported Bill to a point, allowing him to compete on the national level. But, she doesn't hold out much hope for his Olympic dreams this year or in the near future, "Bill is going to have to swim a long time before that change is going to take place."
The good news is Bill will help Carver coach at the Olympics. Then he's headed for Vegas and a well-paying role in the Cirque de Soleil water show "O."
You can watch NBC's coverage synchronized swimming and all the other Olympic events on WIS beginning on August 13th.