With their green, red and white flags in hand, the Mexican artistic swimming team made history at the 2023 Pan American Games.
With their recent gold medal at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, a few weeks ago, the Mexican team was able to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The Mexican team as a whole has not qualified for the Olympics since 1996.
Individuals from the team have qualified in previous Olympic Games in solo or duet events but this will be the first time the entire team has qualified in 27 years. With a gold medal in a duet category and a team event, Mexico made headlines.
Artistic swimming, also referred to as synchronized swimming, is when swimmers perform choreographic routines accompanied by music. The routines are done both under and above water. The sport requires both a physical and an artistic element.
It seems that 2023 has been a year full of firsts for the team. Earlier this year Mexico was able to win its first world medal at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. Itzamary Gonzalez and Diego Villalobos won silver with their performance to “La Llorona.”
Nuria Diosdado, one of the team’s captains and veterans, said that the feeling of seeing the team qualify was surreal. She felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
“It was incredible,” Diosdado said. “It was a moment that was beyond historic, it was very personal.”
Diosdado began swimming at a very young age. Her older sister, who is asthmatic, started swimming to help provide some relief for her symptoms. She said that whatever her older sister did, she did too.
“When I had just turned 15, I moved to Mexico City to join the national team,” Diosdado said. “In order to be on the senior national team we all have to train together in Mexico City.”
Over the years, Diosdado has become a decorated athlete in the sport. She is a two-time gold and four-time silver medalist in the duet and team categories at the Pan American Games and has competed at three Olympic games.
She said that when she started there was not a lot of visibility for the sport in Mexico, but she’s played a key role in its development throughout the country.
“Without a doubt it’s not a massive sport, it’s not a worldwide sport practiced by many female swimmers, and therefore there are few swimming schools, at least in our country,” Diosdado said. “I can tell you that before there were 15 swimming schools about 15 or 20 years ago and today I think that in the 32 states of the republic there must be only two or three in which there is no swimming club.”
Joana Betzabe Jiménez García, Diosdado’s duet partner, said she is still feeling emotional from the recent qualification.
“When I saw the screen and I saw the result I remembered everything we had been through and everything we had experienced,” García said. “I hugged the girls around me and it was a feeling that honestly gave me goosebumps and I didn’t know whether to cry, whether to laugh or whether to jump.”
García got into swimming with her mom when she was a baby. She said her mom enrolled her in an infant swimming class, and they both learned how to swim together. She joined the national team when she was 15 years old.
“When I joined the team, Nuria was a soloist in a duet and I said ‘I want to do what she does in the future,’ and look at me now, I’m doing a duet with her and I’m an Olympian.”
García is a two-time gold and three-time silver medalist at the Pan American Games and has competed in one Olympic Games and served as an alternate for another.
The two women have helped influence the sport within the Latino community. They are both passionate about paving the way for generations to come.
Diosdado said that there is a level of pressure to continue to make advancements in the sport.
“What we do has an impact on all synchronized swimming in Mexico,” Diosdado said. “For me now that I’m on this side of everything, it is really nice to be in a minority sport in which in the end what you do opens paths and leaves a mark.”
They both said that when they started competing in the sport their original goal was not to become Olympians. They just appreciated the sport for its artistry and music and hoped they would be good at it someday.
“If I could give younger Joana any advice I’d would just say not to rush, that everything takes time and that you have to learn to crawl before flying,” García said. “You also have to enjoy the moment and have fun.”
Between now and next summer the team will be preparing to represent their country in Paris.
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