Swimming: US duo make history with mixed synchro gold at World Champs

Christina Jones (left) and Bill May at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia on July 26, 2015.
Christina Jones (left) and Bill May at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia on July 26, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

KAZAN, Russia (AFP) - Bill May teamed up with American compatriot Christina Jones and made history 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 - when the first world championships was created - that men and women have taken part in the same synchro event.

May, 36, once gave up swimming to join the renowned Cirque du Soleil show. He said: "It's unreal, a dream come true! I never thought this would happen because I retired from synchro ten years ago.

"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.

"Allowing men to the programme will add athleticism to the sport and today truly showcased that men have their place in synchro swimming."

May has been a veteran pioneer for men to take part in synchronised swimming, a discipline long associated with slender, smiling girls.

Back in 1998, May, an accomplished gymnast, took part in his first international mixed synchro competition - the Goodwill Games, where he and partner Kristina Lum competed.

Said Jones: "Kristina Lum-Underwood and Bill May are the real pioneers of the sport. They have shown the world that duet can be mixed at the World Championships. And here we are twenty 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.

He said: "Mixed duet combines men's power and women's grace and beauty. I would love to take part in the Olympic Games. I think there are all 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.

They scored 95.4672 points with China's Huang Xuechen and Sun Wenyan winning silver with 93.3279 and bronze going to Yukiko Inui and Risako Mitsui of Japan with 92.0079.

The day's final medal event saw China's Chen Aisen and Lin Yue win the 10m synchro men's diving gold.

Chen and Lin scored 495.72 points with Mexico's Ivan Garcia Navarro and German Saul Sanchez winning silver with 448.89 and Russia's Roman Izmailov and Victor Minibaev securing bronze with 441.33.