By Rhonda Marable//USA Swimming Multicultural Public Relations Manager | Wednesday, February 11, 2015
In honor of Black History Month and in celebration of our collective swimming history, USA Swimming salutes swimming athletes who have made history for the sport and for the African American community. These men exemplify the championship spirit that the sport of swimming breeds and also serve as role models for all swimmers.Fred Evans (Collegiate and National Records)
Fred Evans was the first African American to win a collegiate swimming championship, winning the 100 yard breaststroke at the 1975 NAIA swimming championships for Chicago State. Evans was also a three time NCAA Division II National Champion in the 100-yard breaststroke and national record holder from 1975-1977. Evans continued his career as an influential swim coach throughout Chicago for more than 25 years.
Evans has been an advisor to USA Swimming in the beginning of the Make a Splash initiative and the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s African American Outreach Swim Program. He was honored by OSHOF in 1983 with resolutions from the State of Illinois, Washington D.C. and the Black History Swimming Hall of Fame for his achievements.
Anthony Nest of the University of Florida became the first male swimmer of African descent to win an NCAA championship in 1990, winning the 100 meter butterfly. Nesty would win the event for a total of three consecutive years and also win the 200-meter butterfly in 1992. A native of Trinidad and Tobago and a citizen of Suriname, Nesty swam for Suriname in 1988 and became the first swimmer of African descent to win an Olympic gold medal at the Seoul Olympics.
Chris Silva (Collegiate and National Team)
Chris Silva became the first African American to earn a place on the U.S. National Team, qualifying for the World University Games in Edmonton, Canada in 1982 serving as team captain.
In 1984 he became the first African American to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials, missing the cut to make the team both in 1984 and 1988. Silva was named director of minority programs at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Silva tragically passed away in a car accident in Fort Lauderdale in 1990 at the age of 29.
In 1988, Silva was the first honoree at the Black History swim meet hosted by D.C. Parks and Rec. at the Takoma Aquatics Center.
In 1981, Charles Chapman because the first African American to cross the English Channel, braving cold water, currents and a distance of more than 20 miles. Chapman was the first example of African American’s proving their capability of successfully swimming the channel along with the field of white contenders.
Sabir Muhammad is one of the most well-known African American swimmers for his achievements in the sport. Muhammad earned and accepted a full scholarship to swim for the Stanford Cardinal in 1994 and was the first African American to compete for the varsity men’s swim team. In 1995, he qualified for the Pan Pacific Games held in Atlanta, becoming the first African American to do so.
In 1998, Muhammad led Stanford to its 17th consecutive Pac 10 Championship and 8th NCAA Team Championship where he swam the fastest relay split ever in the 50 butterfly. Upon graduation, he collected seven Pac 10 titles, 25 All American honors and three NCAA, U. S. Open and American swim records.
In 200, Muhammad competed in the Short Course World Championships, winning silver and bronze medals and becoming the first African American to win a medal at a major international swimming competition. He competed as a championship finalist at the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 100 meter freestyle and as a semi-finalist in the 50-meter free, unfortunately missing the cut to make the Olympic team.
In his career, Muhammad broke 10 American records, became a two time Short Course World Championship medalist, a four-time U. S. Open champion, a five-time World Cup Swimming champion and two-time runner-up at U. S. Nationals. In 2009, Muhammad made a comeback after years off and earned another National Team spot in the 50 freestyle during ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships.
Anthony Ervin, swimming for Cal Berkley, was named the Pac 10 swimmer of the year in 2002 and won the 100 yard freestyle at NCAA Championships three years in a row from 2002 to 2002. Ervin set new NCAA America and U. S. Open records with a time of 41.62 his junior year. As a freshman, Ervin because the first Cal Bear to win multiple titles since Olympian Matt Biondi for his swims in the 50 and 100 free.
In 2000, Ervin earned a spot on the 4 x 100 freestyle relay team at U. S. Olympic Trials and earned a place in the 50 free finishing second behind Gary Hall, Jr. In Sydney, Ervin delivered once again, tying Hall Jr. in the 50-meter freestyle to become the first person of African descent to earn a place on the Olympic team and earn a gold medal.
Ervin retired at the age of 22 after his Olympic performance only to return in 2012 when he again made the Olympic team, this time earning a 5th place finish in the 50-meter free. Since that time, Ervin has continuously been named to the U. S. National Team with sights on competing once again in the 50 and 100 free events in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Cullen Jones earned a place on the U. S. National Team in 2005, qualifying for the World University Games where he won gold in the 50 free, becoming the first African American man to win a gold medal at the World University Games.
In 2006, Jones became the first African American man to break a world record in swimming at the Pan Pacific Games as part of the 4 x 100 free relay. He also won the 50-meter freestyle, swimming the fastest time in the world that year. Jones was a four-time ACC Champion and 2006 NCAA Champion at North Carolina State University.
Jones became the second African American to win an Olympic gold medal as part of the legendary 4 x 100 free relay team in Beijing that upset the heavily favored French team and set both Olympic and world records in the event. Jones set a new world record for his swim to earn a place on the team with a time of 47.61, a time that stood as record until broken in 2009.
Jones has been on the U. S. National Team since 2006 and served as the first major ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative. Jones continues to give back to the sport, hosting the Cullen Jones Diversity Invitational in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2013.
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