Home » Sports » For these athletes, ‘being Black while swimming’ is no joke

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2013-14 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight these players.

This week: U of M swimmers Emanuel “Manny” Pollard and Daryl Turner

 

Daryl Turner Photos by Charles Hallman

Daryl Turner
Photos by Charles Hallman

Manny Pollard and Daryl Turner, the Gophers’ only Black members on the swimming and diving teams, have provided color to a historically vanilla sport. Pollard believes he, Turner, and a Black diver at Ohio State were the only ones of color in the Big Ten.

“There aren’t that many of us throughout the country,” Pollard says. “Obviously we are lacking [numbers] in the sport. But considering the Black athletes we do have, I think we actually are a good squad of divers that are keeping up with the non-minority [divers].”

Turner, the freshman from Aurora, Colo., says he has heard the “being Black and swimming” jokes: “I just shrug it off and let my swimming do the talking.” In his first collegiate duel meet last October, Turner placed first in all four events — 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay. “I love sprints,” he admits.

As for diving, “Everyone can do it, but not everyone can make it look good,” says Pollard, a sophomore diver from Troy, N.Y. “To be a diver, you have to be thin, flexible, and be able to jump.”

Like gymnastics, diving scores sometimes are grounded in the eyes of the beholding judges, Pollard points out. “The judges look for specific things, but they start judging you as soon as you step on the

 Emanuel “Manny” Pollard

Emanuel “Manny” Pollard

board. As you begin your dive, they look for height and whether you make the dive look easy, no splash, and the overall impression of the dive — if you execute all those things, it should be a perfect 10.”

For the second consecutive year, the sophomore just missed advancing to the NCAAs. “I’ve been one spot away for both years,” admits Pollard. “Not qualifying again this year was a bit upsetting, but I was seeing my improvement,” says the diver, who finished third in the Big Ten this year, six spots better than last year.

Both young men are doing well in school. “I was nervous handling swimming plus a bunch of schoolwork,” recalls Turner, who is leaning toward a double major in communications and leadership. “I’m doing just fine.”

Says Pollard, a psychology major, “This is my second semester, and it was interesting because of all the championship meets we went on and all the traveling we did. [It] was rough, but I think academically I’m doing just right.”

Swimming has a “lot of mental aspects to it,” believes Pollard, who hopes to be a sports psychologist as well as a Division I coach for the sport.

Turner also wants to coach swimming one day, “but it’s going to be hard,” he says. “It’s one thing to be a Black swimmer in a White sport, and it’s another thing to be a Black coach in a predominately White sport. I really want to coach and take down that stereotype.”

According to the two young men, there really isn’t a swimming off-season. “College season begins in September-October,” notes Turner, “and if you make the NCAA, then it goes all the way to April. Now we are moving into the summer, I only get about two weeks’ break a year.”

“I know this is supposed to be the off-season,” concludes Pollard, “but I am thinking toward what I am doing now that will get me to where I want to be [next season]. I love to study the sport and thinking of ways I can make myself better.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]
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