Karina Silva has been granted her release from the UCLA diving team by coach Tom Stebbins in a move made even more surprising by the looming prospect of this week’s Pac-10 Championships.
Silva, a senior who broke the Pac-10 record for points on tower in 2010, said the decision was a result of her growing academic obligations since she began her pursuit of a degree in film from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television this fall.
“Ever since I started film school, it’s just been hard,” she said. “(Stebbins and I) haven’t seen eye to eye on that. He thinks it’s a distraction, but I think it’s my career.”
This difference of perspective highlights the challenges faced by student-athletes who choose to pursue more unique majors during their years at UCLA, although many have managed to balance the two commitments.
“The Department of Film, Television and Digital Media has had student-athletes in our major in the past,” wrote William McDonald, vice chair of undergraduate studies in the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media, in an e-mailed statement. “We have always been able to work together with Athletics to allow student-athletes to meet his/her academic and athletic obligations.”
McDonald added that attempts were made to accommodate Silva’s diving practice schedule, including changing the time of one required winter quarter class.
Silva’s dedication to both obligations proved to be too much for her.
“I don’t really have anything to say about that,” said Stebbins when asked about Silva’s decision. “She’s decided to move on, to take on another role, and we’ve allowed her to do that.”
Although there was a possibility of another year of NCAA eligibility for Silva, who transferred from a Miami junior college at the beginning of the 2009 season, a team spokesperson said that Silva will not return to the team next year.
Silva entered this season with hopes that collegiate success would lead to a spot on Spain’s 2012 Olympic team after a win on platform at this summer’s Spanish National Championships. After her mother underwent surgery, Silva missed the winter break training season to spend time with her family. Her platform performance continued to suffer, and she fell short of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“The problem on tower started in January,” Silva said. “I just wasn’t making any of my dives, and I started doubting myself.”
Silva believes taking a break will allow her to figure out the reasons behind this mental block.
This development, as important as it may be for Silva, will also have an impact on the Bruins’ performance at Pac-10s, which begin Wednesday in Federal Way, Wash.
“I feel bad for my teammates, because I wanted to be there for them,” Silva said. “I’m just going to try to be there for them in any way that I can.”
The five-member dive team will rely on the leadership of sole senior Laura Winn to get them through the four-day championship meet. Winn, who finished 11th at USA Senior National Championships earlier this month, and freshman Paulina Guzman, who also attended Senior Nationals, look to be the team’s top performers.
These divers, coupled with a swim team which showed its competitive potential during last week’s explosive USC dual meet, will now become the sole focus for Stebbins and swim coach Cyndi Gallagher.
“We’ve had such a great season, and I think we need to focus on the people that are going (to Pac-10s),” Gallagher said when asked about Silva. “I want to focus on what we, as a team, are going to do, and not on someone who has decided not to be part of the program.”
With reports from Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.