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March 8, 2014

Oklahoma gymnasts breaking down stereotypes

Senior night set for 4 p.m. Sunday at McCasland Fieldhouse

NORMAN — Growing up, Sergey Resnick didn’t see many gymnast that looked like him. The Houston native was often the only black male in his class or at most meets.

“I had a lot of black friends that went to predominant black schools. I was one of the few guys at my school that actually did gymnastics. They were cool about it. A lot of the other guys would challenge me to flip-offs to see who could flip better. But I always won that challenge,” Resnick said.

Resnick no longer does flip-offs in the middle of his neighborhood streets. He’s also no loner searching to see other athletes who resemble him. As a member of the Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team, he’s one of three black gymnasts in a sport where that is a rarity.

Resnick, Raymond White, Michael Reid and William Clement are not only vital parts of the top-ranked Sooners gymnastics team, but they also are a part of a long line of black gymnasts at Oklahoma.

“I know in 1990 we had Orson Sykes,” Sooners coach Mark Williams said.

“He was on the 1991 National Championship team. Honestly, we’ve had an African-American gymnast I think almost every year since then. It’s never been a big deal. Maybe I’m a little bit more like Barry Switzer, if somebody has enough talent to make the team, I don’t care what color he is.”

That includes Oklahoma’s Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons who made history when he became the first black gymnast to win the NCAA all-around national title in 2007. It was an accomplishment that surprised the All-American back then.

While the likes of Mike Carter, Ron Galimore, Charles Lakes and Chainey Umphrey held break down barriers in the sport, it’s still not as inclusive as many would like to see.

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