At least one Olympic sport is going to look completely different in the 2024 Paris games. The traditionally all-female synchronized swimming, now known as artistic swimming, will have men competing at the highest level because of a recent decision by the International Olympic Committee.
The World Aquatics, formerly FINA, announced that the International Olympic Committee gave the green light to a maximum of two men competing on eight-member teams. Duets, however, will remain all-female.
This is a shift of four decades of competition for Olympic synchronized swimming.
Some of the female swimmers told the Wall Street Journal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio that they thought it would help their sport. They believed it would draw more attention to it and make it possible for teams to perform bigger lifts.
When World Aquatics made the announcement, it drew an emotional response from Bill May, the now 43-year-old swimmer who had worked for it for most of his life, and who described it as “the impossible dream.”
“This proves that we should all dream big,” he said in a statement released through World Aquatics.
So add another Olympic sport that is becoming gender inclusive, like allowing women to compete in competitions like boxing and wrestling. Now the societal norms in some countries are shifting to expand the acceptable sports and roles for men.
Ashley Johnson is the USA Artistic Swimming’s vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She said that she read the announcement five times until she could believe what she was seeing—a ban that appeared increasingly anachronistic to her would finally lift.
“It’s going to be a game-changer,” she said
Johnson sees it as an important message for the sport: “Just do your passion, and forget your gender and your race.”
This decision leaves only two sports left at the Olympics that will have strict gender barriers.
The Paris Olympics will let men compete in synchronized swimming.
Rhythmic gymnastics is now the only discipline not open to men at the Olympics. Nordic combined is the only sport not open to women at the Olympics. https://t.co/Wmiky9sb9c
— Rachel Bachman (@Bachscore) December 22, 2022