Story courtesy of Ellis Simon, CUNYAC

Look at the CUNYAC results for men’s diving very carefully. For the one-meter event, you’ll find the name “El Haddad” ranked first and second.

But one week, Adil El Haddad, a junior at College of Staten Island, will be number one. The next week it could be his brother, Ayman, a CSI senior. In the three-meter dive, Ayman ranks first and Adil third.

The brothers have a friendly brotherly rivalry in the same vein as football’s Manning Brothers, only they claim their’s is more intense.

Ayman and Adil, who are two years apart, grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Their father came to the United States from Morocco; their mother from Algeria.

Both began diving at Fort Hamilton High School. Ayman, was taking a swimming class at the school. Every Friday, instead of doing laps, the swimming students would play water polo, dive off the board or climb the ropes, he recalls. “Once I got on the board, I didn’t get off. I just kept going on. I’d get upset when class was over because I wanted to stay on the board.”

Adil didn’t begin to swim until he was a high school freshman, but he learned quickly. His passion was basketball, and he played two seasons with Fort Hamilton’s junior varsity team. But, when he tried out for varsity his junior year, at 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds, he was too small to make the team.

By this time, he was swimming well enough to be a lifeguard, so he decided to follow his older brother’s path and try diving. “I fell in love with it.”

When it came time to select a college, Ayman initially wanted to go out of state, but he became interested in CSI because it was just a 35-minute bus ride from Bay Ridge and it had a diving team. He went to visit and met with John Pignatelli, a star diver on the team, Diving Coach Jim Cooney and Head Coach Mike Ackalitis. “John and I hit it off and Coach Cooney and Coach Ackalitis were very enthusiastic about having me join the team,” he said.

Adil had a different kind of choice. His coach at Fort Hamilton, Antonio Gaspar, had just moved to Brooklyn College to become head swimming and diving coach. Brooklyn and CSI are big conference rivals in swimming and diving. Should he continue to work with his coach or follow his brother to CSI?

CSI’s supportive coaching staff and recreation center sealed the deal. “Here I’m in the (recreation) facility 24/7 working out, swimming and diving,” he said.

With two intensely competitive brothers in the house, it is only natural that they squabble over bragging rights. But neither holds the number one spot for too long. “The rankings fluctuate after every meet, so we go back and forth,” Ayman noted. “That’s what keeps it fun.”

“You will never know what will happen with us,” added Adil. During his freshman year, his coach predicted at one meet that he would win in the one-meter, while Ayman would take the three meter. The results turned out to be the opposite.

“They push each other and get on each other’s case, but in a good way,” said Coach Ackalitis. “It’s great for the team atmosphere because it pushes others on the team to do their best, as well. It creates a friendly, challenging culture and that is what we’re trying to be about.”