KAZAN (Russia) • Bill May teamed up with American compatriot Christina Jones and made history on Sunday when they became the first world champions of a mixed synchronised swimming event.
May and Jones scored 88.5108 points to defeat Russia's Alexander Maltsev and Darina Valitova (88.2986), with the bronze going to Giorgio Minisini and Manila Flamini of Italy (86.3640).
It was the first time since 1973 and the creation of the World Championships that men and women have taken part in the same synchro event.
May, 36, once gave up swimming to join the Cirque du Soleil show.
"It's unreal, a dream come true. I never thought this would happen because I retired from synchro 10 years ago," said May. "So being able to do this has been a long time in the making.
"The sport is finally recognising men and it feels great. I have been stubborn and it has paid off."
May has been a veteran pioneer for men to take part in synchronised swimming, a discipline long associated with slender, smiling girls.
In 1998, May, an accomplished gymnast, took part in his first international mixed synchro competition - at the Goodwill Games with his partner Kristina Lum.
"Kristina Lum-Underwood and Bill May are the real pioneers of the sport," said Jones. "They have shown the world that duet can be mixed at the World Championships. And here we are 20 years later, it's a great honour."
Maltsev criticised the judging of the finals but still insisted that the mixed sport has a place in the Olympics.
"Mixed duet combines men's power and women's grace and beauty. I would love to take part in the Olympic Games," he said. "I think there are all (kinds of) reasons to include this new discipline in the Olympic programme".
Russia's Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina won gold in the technical synchronised duo event as the country maintained its eight-year stranglehold on the event.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, XINHUA