Bill May and Kristina Lum Underwood (shown) won silver at the 2015 FINA World Championships. This January, FINA bestowed "Male Synchro Athlete of the Year" on May, and competitor Aleksandr Maltsev.
Bill May/USA Synchro Bill May and Kristina Lum Underwood (shown) won silver at the 2015 FINA World Championships. This January, FINA bestowed "Male Synchro Athlete of the Year" on May, and competitor Aleksandr Maltsev.

Legendary U.S. synchronized swimmer Bill May has attained yet another honor. He was named Male Synchro Athlete of the Year at the FINA World Aquatics Gala in Budapest, Hungary on Jan. 31. He shares the title with Aleksandr Maltsev of Russia.

May’s first synchro swim coach also was honored at the event, according to U.S. Synchronized Swimming. A world-class coach and choreographer in synchronized swimming, Chris Carver has been head coach of the award-winning Santa Clara (Calif.) Aquamaids, a female synchro swim team, since 1984, and was coach of the U.S. National Team in the 1990s.

The Athlete of the Year award was the crowning touch for May and rival Maltsev, who made history at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. It was the first time male synchronized swimmers were allowed to compete at the FINA championships and the American and Russian, along with their female partners, were in direct competition in two events -- with both teams ultimately taking home the top medals. May won gold in mixed duet technical with Christina Jones, and silver in mixed duet free with Kristina Lum Underwood. Meanwhile, Maltsev and his partner, Darina Valitova, won gold in mixed duet free and silver in mixed duet technical.

For these fierce competitors, victory was sweet indeed. Both men are lifelong synchro swimmers. May has been swimming since age 10 and joined the Santa Clara team at 16. During May’s swim career, he won 14 U.S. national championships; captured duet titles in the U.S. and Europe with Lum Underwood; nabbed a silver medal in the duet event at the 1998 Goodwill Games; and was named U.S. Synchronized Swimming Athlete of the Year in 1998-99. Since retiring from competition 10 years ago, May and his former partners, Jones and Lum Underwood, had stayed in shape performing with other synchronized swimmers at aquatic shows in Las Vegas. When they went back into training for the 2015 FINA World Championships, their coach was Chris Carver, who led them during their Aquamaids days.

Maltsev was the first Russian male ever to compete in synchronized swimming at the FINA World Championships. He was just 7 years old when his mother enrolled him in a synchro swim group at a local sports school. His work ethic and natural ability landed him on the St. Petersburg municipal team at age 10. By 14, Maltsev was training with top female synchro swimmers on the national team.