Gay Men’s Synchronized Swim Team Barred From Meet

Synchronized SwimmingSTANFORD, CALIFORNIA – A men’s synchronized swim team has been barred from an international aquatics meet on the Peninsula, raising eyebrows at the San Francisco club that sponsors the team.
The San Francisco Tsunami Swim Club’s team was supposed to perform an exhibition at the FINA World Masters Championships, being held this week at Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Complex. But the international governing body that oversees the meet quashed those plans, following the lead of the International Olympics Committee, which designates synchronized swimming as a women’s sport. “We got the go-ahead from the local organizers,” said Tsunami team member Stuart Hills. “But once FINA International found out, we were disinvited.”
San Francisco Tsunami is a gay and lesbian aquatics club but is open to anyone. The synchro team, in its fourth season, has competed at national competitions, at the Gay Games and at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics Championships.
But when it comes to the Fédération Internationale de Natation, the governing body for aquatic sports and their World Masters Championships, the message is clear: Synchronized swimming is for females.
“It’s a bit of a disappointment, and I feel bad for the local organizers,” Hills said.
More than 7,000 swimmers and divers from 70 countries are competing in the masters championships at Stanford, which kicked off over the weekend and run through Aug. 17. Among those competing in swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming are 175 former Olympians and many world record-holders.
Hills said the Tsunami team “knew we would not be able to compete” but floated the idea for an exhibition.
Don Kane, a member of the 2006 FINA organization committee, said he was looking forward to the Tsunami team’s performance, thinking it could help boost membership in the growing sport of synchronized swimming.
“Our philosophy locally is, the more people who participate in the sport the better,” he said.
Men have been participating in synchronized swimming since the 1980s in mixed pairs but have been banned from competing in the World Masters Championships because the Olympics designates it a female sport.
“I personally think there is a place for a mixed duet where men and women can compete,” Kane said. “When it’s accepted worldwide, then I think FINA will react.”
During opening ceremonies Thursday for the games, the Santa Clara Aquamaids performed a portion of “The Phantom of the Opera” with one male swimmer and nine female swimmers.
The athletes received a standing ovation from the crowd, Kane said.
“Change is going to come,” he said. “I think their eyes were opened.”
from The Mercury News

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