Matt Barnard looks to leave great legacy

The diver has been named MVP by his teammates in the past two seasons.

Matt Barnard competes in diving at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center on Dec. 5, 2015.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Matt Barnard competes in diving at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center on Dec. 5, 2015.

Alyssa Hodenfield

Matt Barnard didn’t have a bad start to his senior season.

After a first place finish in the 3-meter board contest and a second place title in the 1-meter board against Wisconsin, Barnard earned the Big Ten Diver of the Week title for the seventh time in his career.

“To start off the year strong and have that gratification is nice [and also] to get some confidence moving forward,” Barnard said.

The senior from Brisbane, Australia has been successful throughout his years as a diver for Minnesota.

He most recently won the 2016 3-meter Big Ten title and placed seventh in the same event at the 2016 NCAA Championships as a junior.

“I think probably the first thing [that makes Barnard successful] is that he really wants to be good and he motivates himself,” said diving coach Wenbo Chen. “We plan ahead every year and have a plan set up for the goal, so that part helps him a lot for this program.”

Barnard also garnered plenty of success nationally before he came to Minnesota.

He is a five-time Junior National Champion, bronze medalist in the 2012 FINA Junior World Championships and has competed on the Australian National Team.

“[My experience] is certainly helping me along the way,” Barnard said. “Every competition is a new challenge, a new hurdle to get over, but I guess all that experience that I’ve had in the past has definitely helped to keep my nerves down and do what I have to do.”

Having a driven diver on the team like Barnard motivates not only him, but everyone else on the team.

Chen said his success has been a catalyst for the performance of other divers during his time on the team, which is a nice motivator outside of fundamentals.

He has been voted the MVP of the diving team by his teammates for two consecutive seasons.

“I think [he] definitely does set the bar higher,” Chen said. “The other divers get to see what he’s doing and, if they want to get to that level, that’s the way to go. Sometimes it’s better for the athlete to see by themselves instead of just telling them what to do.”

Barnard has undoubtedly had a wealth of individual success during his time with the Gophers, but he credits a lot of that progress to the team members he’s been surrounded by for the past four years.

He said that he doesn’t know if he would be the diver he is today without the influence of his team, and hopes he can leave the same sort of impact once his last season is over.

“Being my senior season, I want to leave my mark on this program,” Barnard said. “Being a leader now, it’s making sure the younger generations come through and doing everything I can to guide them.”