The Annual Paragon Awards, sponsored by Pentair Aquatic Systems, are presented for outstanding contributions to: Competitive Swimming, Water Polo, Competitive Diving, Aquatic Safety, Synchronized Swimming and Recreational Swimming.
2007 Paragon Award / Synchronized Swimming
Maria Cristina Villicana Rodriguez (MEX) / FINA Technical Synchronized Swimming Member
She started out as a diver but when the 1955 Pan American Games were awarded to her native Mexico City, Cristina's diving coach recruited her to participate in synchronized swimming. Synchronized swimming was debuting for the first time in a continental championship competition and Mexico wanted to compete. Cristina placed fifth in the Synchro Duet event and although she continued to participate in diving, she became hooked on synchronized swimming. At the Fourth Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, she and her team won the silver medal in the Team event. Also an outstanding diver, she was the bronze medalist at the Central American Games of 1958 and 1962 in the 10m Platform competition.
Following her retirement as an athlete, Cristina dedicated her life to synchronized swimming, now serving for over 45 years as a judge and administrator for the sport. She has been a synchro judge at all levels from grassroots to Olympic Games and has served at many international competitions: 11 Central American Age Group Championships (1975-1995), 4 Central American Games (1978-1990), 6 Pan American Games (1975-1995), 4 Pan Pacific Games (1975-1989), 1 Goodwill Games (1989), 4 World Cups (1989-1995), 3 World Championship (1982, 1986, 1994), and 2 Olympic Games (1984 and 1988).
Cristina served as a neutral referee at six South American Championships (1988-1996). She has promoted synchronized swimming throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean and is held in high esteem by her peers for her work in advancing synchronized swimming in the Hemisphere.
Cristina was appointed to the Technical Synchronized Swimming Committee of FINA at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and to date is the third longest serving member in the history of the TSSC. She has served as an official FINA observer at many international championships including: 2000, 2004 Olympic Games; 2004 Junior World Championships; 2005 Junior Pan American Championships; 2006 Japan Open; 2007 Pan American Games and 2007 South American Games. For a ten year period from 1974 to 1984, she was a member of the International Judges Study Group helping to establish comprehensive rules for the sport.
In her role as an athlete, judge and FINA TSSC member, Cristina has provided much support to all levels of the sport throughout the world. To honor her service to the sport, FINA has awarded her the Plaque of Honor, Silver Pin and Gold Pin.