Tag: Swimming

U.S. Swimmers Lia Neal and Simone Manuel Make Olympic History

history Swimmers Lia Neal and Simone Manuel Make Olympic History!
U.S. Olympic swimmers Lia Neal and Simone Manuel (photo via blackdoctor.com)

article by Gemma Greene via blackamericaweb.com

In 2012, Lia Neal, an African-American and Chinese-American woman, became the second Black woman to qualify for an Olympic swimming team — and now she, and her friend/fellow swimmer, are making history again.

Neal — who won the Bronze medal in the 2012 games — qualified for the Olympic swim team on July 3 alongside her Stanford teammate, Simone Manuel.

When the two swimmers head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August, they’ll be the first pair of Black female swimmers to compete simultaneously.

The pair, both good friends, landed a spot on the 4 x 100 freestyle team. Madame Noire notes that both women have previously made history, as Neal won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay at the 2012 Olympics in London. And in 2015, Neal and Manuel were two of three Black people to place in the top three spots for the 100-yard freestyle during the Women’s NCAA swimming championships. Manuel came in first, Neal came in second and swimmer Natalie Hinds came in third.

Both athletes reacted to the news on Twitter, making sure to thank those who helped them achieve this historic feat.

Lia tweeted, “I’m a two-time Olympian and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, coaches, and friends. I am thankful beyond words. ”

Manuel also told NBC Sports that she’s eager to compete with swimmers from around the globe. “Just making the team in itself is a great accomplishment,” she said. “Just getting to Rio, all the nerves will be gone and I think I’ll be able to swim a little bit faster.”

To read full article, go to: http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/07/17/swimmers-lia-neal-and-simone-manuel-make-olympic-history/

“Swim Whisperer” Conrad Cooper Teaches Kids to Be Water-Safe

For 20 years, Conrad Cooper has been teaching children in Los Angeles to swim by earning his young students' unwavering trust.
For 20 years, Conrad Cooper has been teaching children in Los Angeles to swim by earning his young students’ unwavering trust. (Elissa Nadworny/NPR)

If you looked at the children at the edge of Conrad Cooper‘s pool, you’d think you were watching an ad for something. Jell-O, maybe. Or a breakfast cereal kids like. They’re that cute.

They’re lined up on the steps in the shallow end, 10 little ones, ranging from age 2 to 5. The boys are in board trunks, many wearing rash-guard shirts like the weekend surfers they might become years from now. The girls wear bright one-piece suits and two-pieces that show their childish potbellies.

They are a rainbow tribe: black, Asian, white, biracial. And every eye is trained on the large man in the middle of the pool.

Conrad Cooper has been teaching little kids (and some adults) to swim for 20 years now. His business, Swim to Me, operates out of his pool in the View Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. He has taught kids who scream with fright at being put in the water, and adults who never thought they’d ever be able to swim.

“After two or three times in the pool with me,” Cooper says, “they recognize, ‘OK, this guy is serious. He’s not taking no for an answer. I’m going to do this.’ ”

His families come from around the corner and across the ocean, because word of his effectiveness travels. “He does not fool around,” parents will tell you, “but it works.”

It’s not a method that works for everyone.

“If you think this is someplace you can come and do monkey-walking by the side of the pool and sing songs … you’re in the wrong class,” Cooper says. A tall brown man with sun-bronzed dreadlocks and Pacific Islander tattoos, Cooper radiates authority, in and out of the water.

To hear audio of this story, click here.

Helicopter parents are politely instructed to find a landing place in one of the comfy chairs that ring the large saltwater pool — and stay there. Parents who want Cooper to teach their children have to promise to abide by his rules: They’re there to support the method, not to comfort their children.

That sometimes comes as a shock to his students.

“After two or three times in the pool with me,” Cooper says, “they recognize, ‘OK, this guy is serious. He’s not taking no for an answer. I’m going to do this.’ ”

Continue reading ““Swim Whisperer” Conrad Cooper Teaches Kids to Be Water-Safe”

67 Year-Old Vivian Stancil Becomes Swim Champ after Weight-Loss Ultimatum from Doctor (and Despite Her Blindness)

Seventeen years ago, her doctor’s words shook her like an earthquake: “If you don’t lose weight, you won’t get to your 60th birthday.”

Vivian Stancil, a retired Long Beach school teacher, was 50. She stood 5 feet tall and weighed 319 pounds.

“A bowling ball wouldn’t even describe what I was,” Stancil says. “I could barely walk. But I wanted to live, so I instantly knew what I had to do: change my diet and start exercising.”

That would not be easy. Stancil’s social life revolved around going out to eat every day with her friends. As for exercise, Stancil hadn’t done it in 40 years — ever, really. She not only didn’t know how to swim but was so afraid of water that she couldn’t dunk her head in past her eyes.

On top of that, she was legally blind.

Nearly two decades later, at 67, Stancil not only lived but became one of the country’s most honored age-group Senior Olympics swimmers, with 176 medals. In June, 1976 Olympic gold-medal swimmer John Naber presented her with the prestigious Personal Best Award, given once a year to the senior athlete who best helps to spread the word about health and wellness.

Circumstances made Stancil an unlikely role model. Stancil and her three siblings were separated and placed in foster homes when both parents had died by the time she was 7. At 16, pressured into a marriage by her cash-strapped foster parents, Stancil had two children and began slowly losing her sight because of an inherited condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Divorced at 20 and raising the kids alone on welfare, she survived a self-described “two-year pity party,” got married and divorced again, and started working as a Head Start preschool teacher in her late 20s. That would prove to be her salvation.

She earned a two-year degree in early education, married for the third and final time, to an usher at her church named Turner Stancil, and went on to get a bachelor’s degree from La Verne College. For the next decade, as her eyesight deteriorated, she was the first and only blind teacher in the Riverside and Long Beach school districts. She retired early in her late 40s.

“I did not lose weight with that,” she says with a laugh. “I’d carry pliers to loosen the wires or just drink protein shakes — lots of them.”

Stancil did not laugh, however, several days after she turned 50, when her doctor told her the party was over. “The next day, I broke the news to the Eating Club: ‘I love you all, but you’re killing me. ‘So this is goodbye. But before I go, I need your help: What sport should I do?'”

The Eating Club pondered. “‘You’re too fat to run or ride a bike,’ they said,” recalls Stancil. “‘What about swimming? After all, fat floats.'”

But, determined to live, she eventually found her way to Bob Hirschhorn, an instructor at Silverado Park Pool who was well-versed in training middle-aged adults petrified of the water.

Her sight wasn’t a problem, save for her inability to see lane lines painted on the pool bottom, Hirschhorn says.

Continue reading “67 Year-Old Vivian Stancil Becomes Swim Champ after Weight-Loss Ultimatum from Doctor (and Despite Her Blindness)”

A Prince George’s Pool Builds An African-American Swimming Powerhouse

They drive their kids to swim team practice at 5 a.m. And bring them back to the pool at night for more .The Kingfish parents buy everything in orange, the team color. Sandals, shoes, purses, pants, hats. And they wear all of it, even to practice.  They create spreadsheets, newsletters, bar graphs and a Web site, which began counting down the days and hours to the first swim practice sometime back in February. They even have a team sandwich — The King Fishwich.  Five years ago, the Kingfish swam in the least competitive division in the Prince-Mont Swim League.  “We’d set out a table by the Giant, trying to recruit swimmers,” said Calvin Holmes, intense swim parent extraordinaire and president of the swim club. “And people would just walk by us. Or think we were selling fish.”

Continue reading “A Prince George’s Pool Builds An African-American Swimming Powerhouse”

Britain’s First Black Swim Champion Achieng Ajulu-Bushell Headed To International Competition!


By now Achieng Ajulu-Bushell has got used to the questions. Since April she has had to. That was the month when it all kicked off. At Ponds Forge in Sheffield she won both the 50 metres and the 100m breaststroke titles at the British championships. Some feat for a 16-year-old. But the press did not want to talk only about her age or her talent, it is the colour of her skin that has been attracting all the attention.  Ajulu-Bushell is of mixed race, the daughter of an English mother and a Kenyan father. When she competed at the European championships in Budapest last August, she became the first black woman ever to swim for Britain. The year before she had been representing Kenya at the world championships, but she decided to switch nationalities at the start of 2010.

Some have been predictably quick to claim that Ajulu-Bushell is living refutation of the ugly old assertion that black Africans cannot swim at the top level.  “It’s pretty crazy,” she says of all the coverage she has received. “I still don’t really understand it. It is an honour, the whole history of it, but it doesn’t really feel any different.”  Before the championships in Budapest it was pointed out to her again and again that no black African had ever won an international title. After Budapest that was still true – she had a terrible competition, knocked out in the heats of the 50m and failing to make the final of the 100m. The pressure got to her and understandably so – it was only a month before that she was finishing her GCSEs. The Commonwealth Games will be her first major meet since, and her first chance to make amends.

Those who fixate on Ajulu-Bushell’s colour miss the point. Her story is so much more than skin deep. Her father is Rok Ajulu, a prominent politics professor who now lives in South Africa. Ajulu was expelled from Kenya in the 1990s because of his active opposition to the repressive regime of the then president, Daniel arap Moi. Living in exile in England Ajulu met Helen Bushell. Their relationship did not last long, but Achieng was born in Warrington early in 1994. The next year the mother and daughter moved to Africa so Helen could pursue her aid work. Achieng’s first birthday was in Britain, her second in Malawi, her third in Uganda and her fourth in Kenya.

“I learned to swim when I was four years old,” Ajulu-Bushell remembers. “I went in with a dinghy, a rubber ring, armbands and I wouldn’t let my mum let go of me. I don’t really know how it started. I did my first competition at school when I was about six years old, a 25-metre freestyle.” At that age her school teacher, who had swum for South Africa herself, was already predicting that Ajulu-Bushell would be a star swimmer. As was the girl herself. Helen Bushell remembers the six-year-old Achieng drawing crayon pictures of herself winning her first Olympic medals.  “I got into it seriously when we moved to South Africa,” Achieng says. “Then when we settled in Kenya it was like ‘Well, I’m either going to carry on swimming or give it up, because obviously there aren’t the facilities to do it.'” She wanted to continue, and so moved back here to take up a place at Plymouth college, where she was in the same class as Tom Daley.

Eventually she switched nationalities, too. The Kenyan federation understood her move, and gave permission for her qualification to be fast-tracked. “That was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do,” she says. “It wasn’t a decision I really wanted to make. It was a lot of stress and pressure which I didn’t really want. But you can only have one sporting nationality. I was born in England, my mum lived in England and the support British swimming gives me is amazing.”  These days her ambitions stretch a long way beyond the swimming pool. She is applying to study politics, philosophy and economics at university. During the pre-Games camp in Qatar she was taking time out from training to write an A-level essay on the merits of constitutional versus unwritten law. The girl, you would guess, is going places. And not just in the pool.