One of my favorite Olympic sports is synchronized swimming.
I discovered the sport when, as a child, I stumbled upon the black and white, 1952 film Million Dollar Mermaid with Hollywood star Esther Williams.
Synchronized swimming (often abbreviated to synchro) was not Williams Olympic goal or sport of interest. She had hoped to compete as a swimmer in the 1940 Olympics, but they were cancelled because of World War II. Her aquatic talents were put to immediate use in Hollywood where her blockbuster films popularized the sport.
At the 1952 Olympic Games, the same year Million Dollar Mermaid hit theaters, synchronized swimming debuted. In 1984 it became an official Olympic sport.
From its showcase in 1952 to the present, Olympic synchronized swimming has been a female- dominated sport. Male synchronized swimmers, unfortunately, are barred from competing in the Olympics.
"There's still this same sort of old mindset. Oh well it's pretty, it's for girls," said team member of Out to Swim Ronan Daly. "But no, we want to challenge that and say boys can do this as well."
But last month before the Games began, Out To Swim, Britain’s male synchro team, wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee and FINA, the international federation governing body of swimming, contesting that males deserve to compete in synchronized swimming, and their discriminatory rules need to be changed in time for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I think it's incredibly 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 of Out to Swim.
First known as "water ballet," synchronized swimming was thought of as a delicate, feminine and frivolous sport seen primarily as part of Hollywood musicals and Las Vegas acts that no real strong men would deign to engage in.
Case in point: Saturday Night Live’s well-known documentary-styled spoof on male synchro in October, 1984 featuring comedians Harry Shearer and Martin Short. "Shearer decided to parody the sport out of personal outrage that synchronized swimmers got the same Olympic medals as athletes in what he considered real sports, " Tribune Olympic Sports writer Philip Hersh wrote.
Mocking the notion that a male would spend time pursuing the sport, Shearer, in the skit, portrays a man giving up his job in pursuit of being the first male synchronized swimmer in the Olympics. Shearer and