For the FIRST time in the sport of Artistic Swimming's 82 year history, athletes with disabilities (AWD) were formally included in the prestigious Jr. Olympics and other National competitions recognized by the USA Artistic Swim Federation (USAAS/Team USA).
After years of advocacy for diversity, equity and inclusion through the non profit, Artistic Swim AWD, the USA Federation agreed to formally include AWD categories (solo, duet and team) for National Artistic Swimming competitions. This is a historic move because it opens the path to include the sport in future Paralympic Games. Artistic Swim AWD has been advocating since 2014 with participating in the Canadian Nationals with an AWD swimmer from the USA. Artistic Swim AWD sponsors a team, Bay Area Synchro which currently has 12 swimmers, 10 of whom are AWD.
This Summer, June 26th to July 3rd, the Jr. Olympics took place in Colorado Springs which hosted hundreds of qualifying teams from all regions of the USA. This event was an invitational as an inaugural event for teams with AWD. Two USA teams made the trip with 15 swimmers to make history. Five swimmers from Northern California's Bay Area Synchro and Ten swimmers from the Florida's Miramar Mermaids.
The swimmers made history by their presence and performance in the solo, duet and team events, which were broken down into categories of Physical and Cognitive disabilities similar to Paralympic Classifications. The swimmers were then judged on their abilities to perform their routines.
Bay Area Synchro dominated the competition with earning Gold & Silver medals in Solo and Duet while Miramar Mermaids took Gold in Team and Bronze in Solo and Duet. We wish to congratulate all the swimmers who participated in this inaugural and historic event for the sport of Artistic Swimming!
The swimmers from Bay Area Synchro are not only exceptional athletes with disabilities and they are also multi ethnic (Black, LatinX, Asian, Pacific Islander) swimmers of color! They are: Raquel Boales, Adriana Burt, Ashlyn Pham, Sesilia O'Sullivan, and Natalie Newman. This is important to mention as we continue to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the sport of Artistic Swimming. Just by looking at an athlete, often times does not express the true diversity of a team. However, mentioning an athlete's ethnic background brings much more appreciation of the efforts from everyone involved in the sport to recognize the wide variety of cultures and ethnicities which makes Artistic Swimming that much more fascinating!
The 2022 Jr. Olympics will be invitational for AWD Teams globally and we expect to see large numbers of athletes in the AWD category from all over the World! Check out our Photo Gallery for pics from the 2021 Jr. Olympics featuring the Bay Area Synchro Team Swimmers.