HBO: Real Sports
By Don Chareunsy
Monday, July 27, 2015 | 6 p.m.
Cirque du Soleil performers Bill May and Christina Jones have made history as the first world champions of a mixed-synchronized-swimming event.
On Sunday, the “O” at Bellagio performers took home two gold medals after competing in the first-ever mixed duet at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
“We are extremely humbled as we have received an immense amount of support from our friends, families, the Santa Clara Aquamaids and Cirque du Soleil,” said Jones in a news release. “I am honored to be part of this journey.”
May and Jones will return to Bellagio to perform in the aquatic masterpiece “O” on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
Tickets are available at CirqueDuSoleil.com/O and Bellagio.com.
Jones’ guest column detailing her road to the world championships with May was posted last Wednesday.
Congratulations to our new world champions!
They say that “if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.”
Such is the life of Henderson resident Christina Jones.
Through her love for swimming, her career in broadcast journalism blossomed.
“I competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for synchronized swimming, and I just remember being fascinated with watching the reporters interview competitors,” Jones said. “I was interested in the process and how the cameras worked. I always knew I wanted to go to (college), so I decided to go for broadcast journalism.”
The 26-year-old was recently named one of 14 recipients of the Tony and Linda Bonnici Broadcast/Communications Scholarship administered by the Nevada Broadcast Association.
This is her second year receiving the scholarship, according to scholarship founder Linda Bonnici.
“Here she is, an older student with a full-time job, and she’s still pursuing her passion and going to school,” Bonnici said. “She doesn’t let anything stop her. She’s adamant about getting her education.”
Born near San Francisco, Jones said she she can’t remember what it was like not to swim.
“I remember when my mom took me to Disneyland when I was young, and she couldn’t keep me out of the hotel pool,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to Disneyland. I wanted to stay in the pool.”
At 6, Jones combined her love for the water with performing and joined a synchronized swimming team.
“I used to choreograph dances with my friends and perform them for our parents, so it was a no-brainer to join synchronized swimming,” Jones said. “I mean, I’ve always felt more comfortable in the water than I do on land.”
After joining a national team in 2005, Jones qualified to compete in synchronized swimming in the 2008 Olympics. She placed fifth in the duet and team meets.
“We trained six days a week for 10 to 12 hours a day, with at least eight hours in the water and land drilling,” Jones said. “It was intense. You have no time or energy for anything else. It’s a complete sacrifice.”
After the Olympics, Jones moved to Las Vegas in 2009 to perform as a synchronized swimmer in Cirque du Soleil’s “O.” She currently performs in the show’s Nage act.
She also recently accepted a publicist position with Water Beauties, a synchronized swimming production company.
“I’ve been balancing the sport with school my whole life, so it comes naturally to me,” Jones said. “Water Beauties is the perfect opportunity. The ability to apply my new skills with something I’m already comfortable with is God-sent for sure.”
In four years, Bonnici and her husband, Tony, have offered full-ride scholarships and advice to 33 recipients. Bonnici serves as the vice president of sales at KLAS-TV, and Tony is the vice president and general manager of Lotus Broadcasting.
“We didn’t want to be just a financial resource. We want to be their mentors and make it personal,” Bonnici said. “We look at these students as our own kids. Whenever they’re struggling, we want them to feel free to call on us for guidance.”
With the help of the association and Bonnici family, Jones plans to hone her broadcast skills before graduating in December.
“I didn’t have any idea what I was applying for at first, but it is so much more than a scholarship,” Jones said. “The Bonnici family really cares about the recipients. They support us and give us advice, and it’s the biggest blessing I’ve had here in Las Vegas.”
Christina Jones’ childhood hobby as a synchronized swimmer introduced her to a worldwide audience in 2008—the Olympic games in Beijing.
“My candid opinion is that she was the very best,” said Noel Jones about his daughter’s swimming career. “I think she’s the best the country has ever produced.”
She placed fifth in duet and teams, Jones said.
From childhood to Beijing and Las Vegas
Jones was born in Montana and raised in Northern California. That labyrinth led her to the Las Vegas valley where she is graduating from UNLV with Magna Cum Laude honors on Tuesday, and where she swims for the “O” Cirque Du Soleil show at the Bellagio.
Jones, 27, rarely pauses. She was at UNLV full time, does publicist work and swims during 10 shows during the week. Somewhere in between, Jones finds time to volunteer.
Though her schedule is hectic and tiring, she speaks passionately about her endeavors. One of them includes thousands acknowledging her team’s technical work at the Cirque show.
“It’s worth it. You work into the audience and you get a standing ovation,” Jones said. “It doesn’t really feel like work.”
She is driven, persistent, a perfectionist, and is constantly prepared to be a step ahead of whatever roadblocks life may throw in her direction.
“I’m just trying to open as many doors as I possibly can at the moment,” Jones said about the future, where she sees herself as a broadcast sports journalist.
Having the eyes of the world on her through media, Jones said the craft of reporting garnered her attention. “I was really interested in the broadcasting that happened around me.”
During a photo shoot for ESPN The Magazine in 2010, Jones met network producer Malinda Adams.
“I want your job. How do I get it?” Jones bluntly asked Adams. That is when the producer, Jones said, took her under her wing and gave her advice.
That led her to Las Vegas and UNLV, where she’s been an overachieving and award-winning student. The Tony and Linda Bonnici Broadcast and Communications Scholarship by the Nevada Broadcast association paid her tuition at UNLV her last two years.
Her competitive nature arose due to genetics, Jones joked. She also noted that swimming has given her an edge in other aspects of her life.
“I feel real fortunate to have the tools that being an athlete gave me in life,” Jones explained. “All those hard years of training and all of those coaches that challenged me really prepared me for any challenge that life is going to throw to me.”
One of those tools is perfectionism, which she said she strives for. Jones wants “to be the best at anything” she’s involved in, she said.
Mr. Jones attested to this while reminiscing about the time his daughter encountered an academic wall while taking a math course at UNLV.
Jones’ “competitive drive,” he noted, caused her to not only to keep in constant contact with the course’s instructor, but also to hire a personal tutor.
That’s just who she is, Mr. Jones said. “Once she started doing it, that’s it, she went for it.” Her confidence turned into her “finding a way.”
Pierre Cottin, Jones’ boyfriend, echoes her father. During the five years they’ve known each other, Cottin has encountered her commitment toward what she tasks herself with, he said.
“She’s very dedicated with whatever she does—at work, with school,” Cottin said. She is “perseverant” and a “perfectionist,” who “does what it takes to be the best.”
Where Jones will be in five years was difficult to answer for her loved ones. Yet, it’s clear to them that whatever she does, she will advance forward.
Jones jumped into higher education a few years later than counterparts her age due to her Olympic path, but adapted quickly, Mr. Jones said.
This approach could work for Jones’ other endeavors.
“She’s matured into a person who could step into almost any job in her line of work,” Mr. Jones said. “I think she arrives at the scene ready to take off full speed.”
Jones is busy, but does not seek praise.
“I think that I would like to be remembered as having integrity,” Jones said. For her, it’s “working hard, even when no one is watching.” She works hard “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Though Jones said she likes being prepared for the future, she does not quite know where it will land her exactly and seems content of where she stands now.
“I’m living my life,” she said. “Swimming kind of defines me. So without swimming I don’t really know what my life’s like yet, you know?”