USA Collects Double Silver Medals at the 2023 Pan American Games
by Alyssa Jacobs, USA Artistic Swimming
Artistic swimming competition at the 2023 Pan American Games wrapped up on Friday in Santiago. Close standings and spectacular performances from Pan American countries made the competition thrilling until the very end. USA walked away with a pair of silver medals in the duet and team categories, the best finish since 2011, and Bill May became the first male to appear on an artistic swimming podium at the event.
After coming within a fraction of a point from claiming the continental team qualification, USA will set their sights on the 2024 World Championships in Doha to complete the mission of qualifying a team for the Paris Olympic Games.
The summary: Team USA earned qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games in the duet category.
The story: The USA duet of Ruby Remati and Megumi Field managed to stay incredibly consistent despite limited time dedicated to refining the duet. The pair, who just began swimming together in June, notched two second-place finishes in technical and free to secure a silver medal in the duet category. With two base mark-free performances, Remati and Field proved they were able to improve their execution from their first outing in Fukuoka at World Championships. They elected to compete routines with rather conservative declared difficulties compared to their North American counterparts. The strategy paid off by keeping them ahead of Canada’s pair that was unable to execute their ambitious declared difficulty and consequently fell off the podium for the first time in Pan American Games history. Mexico’s seasoned Olympic pair solidified themselves in gold medal position for the first time ever with the highest difficulty in the field. Brazil rounded out the duet podium and secured bronze. With an average age 11 years younger than the gold medal duet and about four years younger than the bronze duo, Remati and Field were the youngest duet on the podium and more than proved their competency in a seasoned field. This marks Remati’s second duet medal at the Pan American Games, having previously earned a bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.
The story: The technical team competition took place first on Tuesday. One base mark on a critical hybrid meant that USA’s Michael Jackson routine, with the highest declared difficulty in the technical team competition by nearly three points, lost out on the full benefit of their bravery and finished the category in second place with a score of 253.8008. After the first day of team competition, Mexico sat in first with 267.5942 and Canada in third with 233.2679.
Nevertheless, the senior team’s tenacity and spirit is best displayed in times of adversity, and they were determined to come back stronger in the free routine. With a day of practice to reset and refocus, they did just that. The free team category was thrilling, as USA entered the competition with the highest declared difficulty once again. Mexico went first and executed a clean, butterfly-themed routine that earned them a score of 290.2604. USA competed the water-themed routine that has been through several evolutions of choreography and acrobatics since the new scoring system was implemented. The technical controllers ruled the second and last acrobatic elements of the routine unsuccessful and the penalty put USA in second place behind Mexico. However, a successful petition by USA reversed the decision of one of the base marks, giving USA critical points back and shifting the standings to put the stars and stripes in first.
With combined routine scores, Mexico led by just under nine points heading into the final day of competition. The acrobatic category has been USA’s strongest event of the season thanks to incredibly difficult and artistic choreography that has been rewarded on the 2023 competition circuit. The routine earned a historic silver medal at World Championships and the team had made acrobatic adjustments to maximize the scoresheet even more since. With a small lead for Mexico, the strategy of carefully selecting an appropriate and attainable declared difficulty was more important than ever. This game of strategy is what has made the new scoring system so exciting and that excitement was on full display in Santiago.
USA finally executed a basemark-free routine to finish the acrobatic category in first place with a score of 236.4233. Unfortunately, the uneven weight of the acrobatic category in comparison to technical and free meant it wasn’t enough to push USA past Mexico in the total standings. Mexico finished in first with a small margin of victory of .6638. Despite topping the scoresheets in two of the three categories, the score differential in the technical team category was too much to overcome. Still, Team USA posted the best event finish since 2011 and Bill May became the first male ever to step foot on an artistic swimming podium at the Pan American Games.
Athletes that contributed to the team medal include Anita Alvarez, Jaime Czarkowski, Megumi Field, Audrey Kwon, Calista Liu, Jacklyn Luu, Bill May, Dani Ramirez and Ruby Remati.
The journey continues to return a USA team to the Olympic Games. While the season didn't culminate how Team USA fans had hoped, the national team athletes and coaches still managed to notch historical finishes and continue to advance their reputation as innovators in the sport. The squad was bold and took risks this season and with three months ahead of them to train and ensure the execution matches the vision, the future is still very bright.