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U.S. artistic swimming team qualifies for first Olympics since 2008

A U.S. artistic swimming team will compete at the Olympics this summer for the first time since 2008. The team could include a man for the first time ever.

The Americans earned one of the last five spots available at the world championships in Doha this week. The three-part competition ended Friday.

The world championships team included 45-year-old Bill May, a longtime artistic swimmer in individual and duet events.

May joined the U.S. team event roster after international officials approved men for top-level team competition for the first time over a year ago.

Men can compete in Olympic artistic swimming for the first time in Paris, though nations can still field all-women teams if they wish.

When the rules were changed to allow men, U.S. artistic swimming head coach Andrea Fuentes said that she was looking forward to having men in her athlete pool for the team event.

“I want inclusion,” she said in late 2022. “If I have the opportunity to do it, I will for sure use it.”

May, who had not competed since 2019, ended what he called a “halfway” retirement and made the national team.

May competed at the last two world championships and last fall’s Pan American Games in the eight-person acrobatic routine. He was not used for the eight-person technical or free routines at either worlds or Pan Ams.

At worlds, the U.S. used eight artistic swimmers from a total roster of 12 for each of the three routines, subbing different swimmers in and out for each routine. At the Olympics, the same eight swimmers must be used for all three routines. An alternate is allowed, usually in case of injury.

If May makes the Olympic team, he would break the record for oldest Olympic artistic swimmer for any nation by more than five years, according to the OlyMADMen.

The lone member of the 12-swimmer U.S. team at worlds who has prior Olympic experience is Anita Alvarez, who competed at the Rio and Tokyo Games in the duet event.

“I can’t stop crying,” Alvarez said, according to World Aquatics. “I’m so happy. It’s been a long time coming with this team. Like Bill said, it’s the greatest team ever. We have grown so much. We have overcome so many challenges. Even in this competition alone we have proved to be a super team.”