Bill May joyfully celebrates with his partner Christina Jones after competing in the Mixed Duet Technical in Kazan. GETTY IMAGES

This weekend in the northern suburbs of Paris at the newly-built Olympic Aquatics Centre, Bill May will continue his push to secure a landmark spot in the USA artistic swimming team. The 45-year-old is on the verge of becoming the first man ever to compete in the event.

Until this year, artistic swimming, the new name for synchronised swimming, was a female-only domain, leaving May to cheer on from the sidelines. If he makes the final eight when the team is cut down from its current 12 members on 9 June, it will fulfil the dream he has been living for 35 years.

"To say that I'm going to the Olympic Games, it's something almost unimaginable, because it's something that I thought that I would never be able to do during my career," he told Agence France-Presse at the team's Olympic training base at Eaubonne, outside Paris.

May, who took up the sport when he was 10 to compete with his sister, was given the big news just before Christmas 2022. Early in his career, May won the duet at the US national championships and was named the US Synchronised Swimming Athlete of the Year in 1998 and 1999. 

Synchronised Swimming ace, May, is on the verge of becoming the first man ever to compete in the event at the Olympics. GETTY IMAGES
Synchronised Swimming ace, May, is on the verge of becoming the first man ever to compete in the event at the Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

Though, with no place for men at the swimming world championships or the Olympics, the 45-year-old hung up his competitive noseclip in 2004, going on to perform in the water for Cirque du Soleil. Then came the news that men would be allowed to compete in the world championships in Kazan in 2015 and he opted to come out of retirement.

"I'll do it, no matter what. I don't care if I'm dead last. I just want to be there. I want to show the world that men should be accepted into the sport of artistic swimming.” he said.

On 26 July 2015, he made history, becoming the first man ever to win artistic swimming gold at a major event by winning the mixed duet technical routine gold with his partner Christina Jones. They took silver in the free routine and May went on to win medals at world championships in Budapest in 2017, Fukuoka in 2023 and Doha in February this year.

"It was a great opportunity for myself but also to show the growth of the sport," he said. "It was also to inspire other male athletes or other athletes that want to represent diversity in any sport, to see that they can have a dream and push for that dream and nothing can stop them."

At the Olympics there is no switching team members for the three events. The same eight chosen must compete in the technical, free and acrobatic programmes on three successive nights. So, the question at this weekend's test event is: can a 45-year-old May keep in step with his teammates, the next oldest of which is 25 years his junior?

May and his team have so far competed in Team Technical on Friday and have placed seventh. They are set to compete in Team Free today and Acrobatic tomorrow. For May, it really will be a dream come true if he makes the cut and pulls on the USA uniform in Paris.

"I was 10 years old when I walked onto that pool deck and I never looked back," he added. "So this is an opportunity of a lifetime. With the Olympic Games, you'll see a man included. And I want a small athlete to say: 'Hey, that's going to be me one day'."