Champion swimmer Piankhi Gibson, 20, could achieve the almost impossible mission of succeeding Michael Phelps, as the next Olympic Butterfly-Stroke gold medalist.
He is the only male swimmer to win the 100-yard butterfly as a freshman in the North Coast championship. He holds 11 medals, including four first place finishes from his high school career.
Piankhi met Phelps and received words of encouragement. He knows that with continuous practice, an Olympic future is not far from his reach.
Raised in West Oakland, Gibson graduated from Acalanes High School in Lafayette and is now a sophomore at Auburn University in Alabama.
Gibson first learned to swim as an 8-year-old with the local recreational swim team at DeFremery Pool in West Oakland. He then swam with the Oakland Undercurrents based at Laney College, the national swim team Concord Terrapins and the Crow Canyon Sharks.
He earned nationwide success in the Junior Olympics and Far Western championships. He had continued success throughout high school, winning the 200-medley relay as a sophomore and finishing third place in the 50 freestyle in his junior year.
In his senior year, Gibson won the 50-freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, breaking another barrier as the first to win both races.
Gibson says Dominic Cathey who swam for UC Berkeley, the Oakland Undercurrents and is now a coach for the team inspired him.
Gibson also had a chance meeting with Olympic gold medalist Phelps when he attended the Diversity Select Camp in Colorado Springs as an eighth grader, where the Olympian spoke to young aspiring swimmers.
Majoring in business marketing at Auburn University, he is motivated to make swimming a popular sport and to encourage other young people.
“There’s this fear of water and swimming. If more kids learn how to swim when they are young, they’ll be more interested,” he said.
As a result of his swimming, Gibson received a partial swimming scholarship to Auburn. But even with the scholarship, Gibson’s family cannot afford all tuition fees.
“I want to get to a place where I’m not worrying about if I can pay, so I can put in the work to be the best swimmer I can be,” he said.
Now completing his third semester at Auburn, Gibson is hoping to receive donations to help him pay $2,500 for tuition this semester.
“We want people around the Bay Area to give,” said Paul Cobb, Post publisher. The Post News Group is donating $100 to Gibson’s tuition fund. “If 25 people give $100, we can help Piankhi swim to glory.”
Gibson’s mother HuNia Bradley says she is very proud of her son and grateful for the donation of The Oakland Post in supporting her son’s education.
Inspired by Gibson’s story, Pastor Brondon Reems of Center of Hope Community Church responded to Cobb’s request and said, “I’m giving $100 personally, and the church will give $100 for Mr. Gibson; and we want to have [Gibson] at the Center of Hope as a motivational speaker to speak to our youth.”
Writer Marvin X, Pastor Ken Chambers, Sr. of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and Pastor Phyliss Scott, Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries also donated. Cobb, Reems, and Chambers plan to contact ministers, community leaders and individuals who may want to contribute to Gibson’s tuition.
To donate, call (510) 228-7596 or email email@example.com.