Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 14


 
 









 
Diving sensation makes a splash, thrives on competition

By Samica Knight
Daily Cougar Staff

For someone who initially felt like a fish out of water when she entered the United States to attend college, it didn't take sophomore Yulia
Pakhalina long to become comfortable at UH.

As a freshman, the Russian 2000 Olympic synchronized diving gold medallist led UH to two NCAA championships, an unprecedented
achievement in UH diving history.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar


Sophomore Yulia Pakhalina is picture perfect as she practices to defend her NCAA championships on the 1- and 3-meter springboard.
Pakhalina won a gold medal for Russia in synchronized diving at the 2000 Olympic Games.


This was an amazing triumph considering the outstanding tradition of the Cougar swimming and diving program. Twelve former Cougars
have participated in Olympic diving and swimming events.

Pakhalina wiped out the competition in the 1- and 3-meter springboard diving events at the NCAA championships at the Nassau County
Aquatic Complex in Long Island, N.Y., in March.

Cougar head diving coach Jane Figueiredo has nothing but praise for her dual diving champion.

"Yulia brings skill, dedication and commitment to the team," Figueiredo said. "She shows the same dedication with her schoolwork."

When Pakhalina first began diving in Russia she was coached by her father, Vladimar Pakhalina, who still coaches her in individual
international competitions.

Figueiredo recruited Pakhalina through Pakhalina's best friend and Russian synchronized diving partner, Vera Ilyina, during the 2000
Olympic summer games. Figueiredo coached the Russian team to the gold medal at the Sydney games.

The UH world-champion springboard diver turned down an outstanding program at Texas to sign on with UH.

In the 19-year history of the NCAA swimming and diving championships, Texas has won seven championships, second only to Stanford's
eight.

Pakhalina felt UH offered the best opportunity to work closely with one of the best diving coaches in the world.

Hard work is definitely part of the winning game. With the diving season right around the corner, Pakhalina spends an hour in the mornings
doing somersault repetitions and practicing difficult tricks on dry land.

"The great Russian and Chinese divers spend more time out of the water than they do in the water," Figueiredo said.

Pakhalina finally gets into the water during her two-and-a-half hour practice in the afternoon.

When describing the intensity of Pakhalina's practice sessions, Figueiredo said, "She just started school so we haven't hit it yet."

Though only a sophomore, Pakhalina, like all champions, thrives on competition and fears no opponent.

In fact, when Pakhalina learned the No. 1-ranked 1-meter diver in the world signed with Southern California this year, she couldn't contain
her excitement.

"I am happy that she is staying there," she said, "because at least I'll have somebody to compete with."

That's how good Pakhalina is: head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.

Although Pakhalina often travels to different countries to compete and her collection of medals glitter with gold, she gets a little homesick at
times.

"My mom and my dog is missing me a lot," she said. "And as the Olympic champion, everybody in my town knows me, so it is really hard to
study here."

Pakhalina wants to continue her studies at UH while she competes for world titles and NCAA championships. She plans to graduate in four
years with a degree in sports administration.

She's not certain about life after collegiate diving because, unlike most other sports, no professional diving teams exist anywhere in the
world.

Pakhalina participated in the 2001 Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia, this weekend. The Cougar dynamo finished 12th in the 1-meter
springboard contest and fifth in the 3-meter springboard competition. 

China's Jingjing Guo finished first in both events to sweep the springboard diving competition. China's Guo and Minxia Wu then upset
Pakhalina and Ilyina in the synchronized diving event. The Russian gold medal winners finished in second place.

Not every day brings success, even for an Olympic gold medallist.

So what comes after college for this incredible athlete?

"I'll try to stay in shape for the next Olympic games," Pakhalina said.

There is one thing Pakhalina knows for certain: Russia is the place she wants to be.

"I like your state," she said, "but it's home there."
 
 
 
 
 

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