Male Synchronized Swim Team Barred from Olympics
(LONDON) -- At the Queen Mother Sports Centre in the heart of London, a group of medal-winning athletes is training for one of the most demanding Olympic competitions-- synchronized swimming. Their sport requires precision, teamwork and stamina.
But no matter how hard they train, no matter how good they are, this team isn't welcome at the 2012 Summer Games, for one simple reason: They're men.
Synchronized swimming was first demonstrated at the Olympics in 1952, and didn't become an official sport until 1984, but then it was only opened to female teams.
The Out To Swim Angels are Britain's only male synchronized swimming team. Last month they wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee and FINA, swimming's governing body, arguing that men deserve to compete in synchronized swimming as well.
"There's still this same of sort old mindset. Oh well it's pretty, it's for girls," said team member Ronan Daly. "But no, we want to challenge that and say boys can do this as well."
Watch the exclusive interview with the Out To Swim Angels on ABC's Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET/PT
These guys are not the first. Californian Kenyon Smith was one of best synchronized swimmers in the world, when he was blocked out from entering the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Four years earlier, Bill May, who won several awards swimming with women, was barred from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Now these Brits say enough is enough. In their letter to the IOC, they're asking that the rules be changed in time for the Summer Games in Rio in 2016.
"I think it's incredible ironic that the Olympics are all about equality, yet we don't have a chance to compete, and other mens' teams don't have a chance to participate," said team captain Stephen Adshead.
Synchronized swimming was glamorized by actress and professional swimmer Esther Williams in the 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1980s, comedians Martin Short and Harry Shearer poked fun at the idea of men competing in the sport on Saturday Night Live.
The Out To Swim Angels said to get the public to take them seriously, all they need to do is demonstrate their routine. The swimmers never touch the bottom of the pool, and their moves require incredible core strength.
The team was created three years ago and is coached by Sanela Nikolic, a former Yugoslav champion. Last year they brought home a gold medal from the Eurogames in Rotterdam.
Along with the battle for acceptance, Adshead says the team is also fighting to stay afloat financially, since renting time at the local swimming pool can be costly.
Still, the team promises to keep kicking, to get the Olympic Committee to recognize that men can compete just as well as women in this challenging sport.
"We need the younger people to do this, to encourage kids to get involved in synchro," said team member George Gardiner. "We need to build up the talent, train hard and hopefully we'll see guys doing Olympic level synchro in a few years time."
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