A “truly historic” and “ game-changing” moment, which could “inspire millions” – just some of the phrases passionately delivered, occasionally with a few tears, by male artistic swimmers after they finally attained equality with their female counterparts.
The emotion was understandable. The men were once boys who had dreams.
As children they wanted to deliver their best in the pool, but their focus was synchronisation rather than speed. The boys were mesmerised by the “magic and beauty” of this sport.
Some were bullied, laughed at, called names or simply dismissed for daring to suggest they should focus their energy on an activity ‘just for girls.’
These boys knew better. They were not deterred. On 12 August 2022 they became pioneers.
World mixed duet champion Giorgio Minisini was the star act as men, for the first time, were allowed to compete in a senior solo competition at a major continental championship.
The Italian duly delivered the Roma 2022 European gold medal-winning performance he and the fans craved, but this historic moment was about more than medals.
In the words of female artistic swimmer and double world champion Lucrezia Ruggiero, who is Minisini’s mixed duet partner, the event “showed how beautiful men can be in this sport.
“They can really give it something special and emotional, so if we can share this with people around the world this moment will become even bigger in time.”
After the men’s solo technical final LEN TV spoke to the history-making artistic swimmers to assess the potential impact of this historic competition.
Giorgio Minisini (Italy) – Men’s Solo Technical – Gold
WATCH MINISINI’S GOLD MEDAL WINNING PERFORMANCE
The Italian became transfixed by what was then known as synchronised swimming when he was just four years old saw the legendary American performer Bill May perform at a demonstration event in Rome.
22 years later Minisini emulated his hero by taking to the pool at the Foro Italico, the home of the 1960 Olympics, and securing the first-ever Men’s Solo Technical European gold.
“It’s a bit of Bill May’s fault that I am swimming here because he showed me that a man can do artistic swimming and during my career I just wanted to be like him,” he tells LEN TV.
“The new men’s solo event is an opportunity to do it and my dream is that some young child gets inspired from seeing what we do.
“I was back stage with Ivan (Martinovic) and Fernando (Diaz) and we were talking about being the first men and making history, which makes me super-proud.
“Everyone that comes after will be something that comes from us, so it’s something magical and incredible to do it at home and I really want to thank everyone who’s come to watch and support us.”
Fernando Diaz del Rio (Spain) – Men’s Solo Technical – Silver
Pau Ribes is widely regarded as being the transformative figure for male artistic swimming in Spain.
He has claimed five European medals over the last two editions of the championships while competing in the mixed duet events – but Diaz del Rio was given the opportunity to make history at Roma 2022.
“It’s a very special moment because I was a synchro fan before I started training and when I was young I always saw the competitions, but didn’t know if I could participate, so now it’s an honour for me and very special.
“Pau was the first and now I’m here competing at the European Championships an getting a medal.. wow, it’s amazing!
“It’s a dream come true and one more chapter in Spain’s artistic swimming history.
“What I would say (to boys watching) is that it’s a very beautiful sport. All the countries come together like a very strong family and I think this is the reason to start practicing.”
Ivan Martinovic (Serbia) – Men’s Solo Technical – Bronze
The Serbian was a competitive swimmer before being introduced to the new discipline by his partner Jelena Kontic, who is also a Serbian artistic swimmer.
He made the switch less than a year ago and made his major international debut at Roma 2022.
“It was a dream come true,” Martinovic told LEN TV.
“Ever since I started swimming it was always a dream to participate in big events and when I switched sports – just 11 months ago – I never dreamed of me being here in the European Championships a year later, participating next to the giants like Georgio.
“It’s just sublime, I was crying after finishing my routine and to share it with these amazing guys. It’s just three of us now, but it’s amazing and I’m putting my country on the map and I would invite boys from all over Serbia to please come and try the sport.”