“Artistic swimming not just for girls” – GB’s first international male artistic swimmer


Ranjuo Tomblin and partner Rosie Rallings have been training together for two months

“Sometimes people say it’s a girls-only sport, but it’s not and I’m proud to show that men and boys can be artistic swimmers too.”

Ranjuo Tomblin is just 15, but on Thursday he made history by becoming the first man to compete in an international artistic swimming competition for Britain.

He and his 18-year-old partner Rosie Rallings placed fifth in the mixed-duet technical final at the European Junior Championships in Malta, just over two months after training together for the first time.

“I was a little nervous for my first international competition, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something and I’m proud of what I’m doing,” he told BBC Sport.

Tomblin was a competitive swimmer specializing in the 50m butterfly, but was encouraged to try artistic swimming in 2018 after a coach learned of his gymnastics background.

He needed little persuasion.

“I remember waiting for competitive swimming races and training sessions and I would see all the girls going through their routine and I was like ‘oh my God, that looks amazing’,” recalls- he.

“It’s one of the toughest sports because you need to have good cardio, strength, flexibility and be able to hold your breath while doing it all in the water.

“It’s so rewarding, though, and when people find out how difficult it is, they start to appreciate it.”

Tomblin, who trains with Atlantis Flamingos in Horsham, was stepped up to the UK setup after being included in Swim England’s Artist Swimming Talent Pathway program last year.

He is coached by London 2012 Olympian Katie Chapman and hopes to compete in the Games himself one day.

Artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, first included men in a major event in 2015 at the Fina World Aquatic Championships in Russia.

Although Fina – the international governing body of sport – has called for the addition of mixed events to the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024, they have not come to fruition.

The number of participants is increasing, however, and optimism is growing that the event will be included in the Los Angeles Games in 2028 – when Tomblin turns 22.

“I can’t wait to see Kate (Shortman) and Izzy (Thorpe) compete for Great Britain in Tokyo, but it would be an absolute dream to swim in the Olympics myself one day,” he said.

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