The Crusader Newspaper Group

The future of U.S. swimming is 6 feet 9, 17 years old — and African American

By Dana O’Neil,

The question comes up whenever someone meets Reece Whitley for the first time. Whitley is too polite to respond with the classic teenage show of disdain: the eye roll. But inside? Inside, his eyeballs are on the other side of their sockets.

“How big are your shoes? I hear that all the time,’’ Whitley said with an exasperated chuckle. “I mean, I’m a swimmer. I don’t wear shoes. It’s not a relevant question.’’

What remains relevant, however, is Whitley’s skin color. He would love for it to be otherwise, for the notion of an African American swimmer to be a norm instead of a novelty. The sport simply isn’t there yet. Elite-level swimming success for blacks in the United States essentially begins with Cullen Jones and ends with Simone Manuel, and that stretch started in 2008.

Certainly there has been progress. Jones, who became the first African American to hold a world record, is no longer swimming solo upstream. Manuel’s history-making gold medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics came on the heels of her and Lia Neal (both swimming for Stanford) joining Florida’s Natalie Hinds in becoming the first African Americans to sweep an NCAA championship event.

Read more at–and-african-american/2017/06/26/1132fbb8-5a8d-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_whitley-1230pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6915fe89843e

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