By Mani Thangadurai
Being awarded the Regional Scholar-Athlete Award for 2016 by the Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association is yet another accolade in an already glittering swimming career for FSC Senior Diego Gimenez Liñares.
This Spanish star won his first ever Individual National Championship held in Indianapolis in March 2016 by being a part of the FSC 200-meter Medley Relay team, and made important contributions to the FSC Men’s Team finishing third overall.
Currently one of three co-captains for the Men’s team this season, Gimenez is adept in backstroke, freestyle and butterfly and specializes in the sprint disciplines while also being able to train for middle distances.
Growing up in Burgos, Spain, Gimenez didn’t really want to enter the swimming pool. A childhood asthmatic, he was advised by his doctor to take up swimming as a form of therapy since the water temperature wouldn’t adversely affect his lungs. Like many children he was afraid of the water at first, but took some classes and gained some confidence.
“As a kid I loved watching Michael Phelps, but I also remember idolizing Aschwin Wilderboer, a Dutch-Spanish swimmer and two-time Olympian for Spain who was also a world record holder in the 100m backstroke,” Gimenez said
As a student at the Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente Secondary School in Burgos, Gimenez was pushed hard to excel by his high school coaches and earliest mentors Roberto Palacios and Alvaro Santos.
When it came to the decision of where to pursue a college education, Gimenez had an influential factor in deciding to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
“My brother Ruben Gimenez was a swimmer at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and he told me a lot about the benefits of life in the United States. I had to consider my options depending on where I could get a scholarship. I was considering joining the Bridgeport Purple Knights, and in fact very nearly became a University of Tampa Spartan, but thankfully I joined the Moccasins,” Gimenez said.
It was a decision for which both FSC and Gimenez would be thankful, initially due to the majority of his teammates being Latin American. By his own admission, Gimenez wasn’t very fluent in English and needed the support of teammates like Honduran, Allan Gutierrez (who would go on to be an Olympian himself) and Venezuelan, Jesus Marin, both of whom along with Robbie Swan are credited by Gimenez as being his most influential and inspirational teammates.
“When Diego first got here all he cared was about his own performance in the water, and I can relate to that because I was the same. After he made the transition and built stronger relationships in the team, he became a much improved all-round swimmer,” said Marin, who co-captained the team last year. “Diego has grown so much as a swimmer throughout his collegiate career and it amazes me how well he balances his schoolwork with his sporting life. Everyone loves him.”
Upon joining the FSC Men’s team Gimenez worked with head coaches Duncan Sherrard and Michael Blum, whom he credits for almost single-handedly turning around the fortunes of the Moccasins.
“The team was not doing as well as they are now for many seasons prior to their arrival and when I joined we were starting to emerge. Duncan and Mike pushed all of us to work harder, and their tough love helped take us to a much higher level. At first I struggled with their expectations, and needed the support and encouragement of my captains at the time. Now as a co-captain I must endeavor to set a similar example for my teammates,” Giminez said.
“As a co-captain this year, Diego clearly believes in leading and inspiring by example, be it in the pool or in the classroom,” said Blum. “Prior to Duncan arriving in 2009 our Swim team was consistently among the Top 15 in the nation, but we wanted to reach another level and make sure we do it by grooming our swimmers. Diego has played an important role in our continued rise and improvement over the last few years, including our triumphs in the SSC Championships and the National Championships, and it has been a joy having him in the team.”
Gimenez’s and FSC’s triumph in nationals was poignantly significant, with the sad passing of teammate Wil Mintner earlier that season having a huge effect on the team.
“At one point we found it difficult to even train, but realized that we had to go on because that’s what Wil would have wanted us to do. We painted the letter ‘W’ on our chests and our arms and had a special ‘Wil Power’ chant in tribute to him. His demise certainly brought us together as a unit,” said Gimenez.
With an overall GPA of 3.92, Gimenez is a shining star in the classroom as well. Currently a dual major in Computer Science and Economics & Finance, he has certainly taken on some demanding courses but also taken to his classes like a duck to water.
“For me, time management is key. Like any other student I do procrastinate, but I always make sure I get things done. Without the help of my coaches, my professors and my classmates it is almost impossible for me to balance my athletics and my academics. I lean on them for help when I need to, like when I might miss a class or have an exam clashing with a sports meet. I have always been good in arithmetic and enjoy quantitative subjects,” Gimenez said.
Having interned for them over the summer, Gimenez has accepted an offer to work with the world-renowned Black Rock Asset Management firm in New York in August and seems prepared for the professional life beyond FSC.
“I cannot see myself pursuing a swimming career due to the heavy competition back in Europe, and I want to put my education to good use. I still love swimming and will never say no to possibly coaching some youngsters or elderly people. But now I’m just focused on my final season as a Moccasin and I hope to see the team shine,” said Gimenez.