LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, May 28. KONGZHENG “KZ” Li, former diving coach at the University of Michigan, has been named as the head diving coach at the University of Louisville, according to Cardinal head coach Arthur Albiero. Li just concluded his fourth season as the head diving coach for the 12-time NCAA national championship University of Michigan swimming and diving programs where he oversaw both men’s and women’s programs.
“First of all, on behalf of UofL Swimming and Diving, I want to thank Mike Zehnder for his many years of service to our program, said Albiero. “We are thrilled to welcome KZ to our Cardinal Swimming and Diving Family. We conducted an extensive national search and we are very excited to add KZ’s enthusiasm and passion for high level performance to our staff. He clearly understands collegiate diving, and his experiences both personal (as an Olympic medalist) and a coach at a number of high level environments, will impact our program day one! We are committed to being very successful in swimming and diving, and we believe the next few years will be very exciting as we join the ACC.”
During his tenure at Michigan, Li coached two female divers that qualified for the NCAA Championships during his four years with the program: Carey Chen in 2014 and Amanda Lohman in 2011 and 2012. Lohman earned All-America honorable mention in the one-meter and three-meter events at the 2012 championship. Last season, men’s diver Timothy Faerber became the first Wolverine diver to reach the championship final of the Big Ten meet on all three disciplines (one- and three-meter springboard and platform) since Jason Coben in 2003, and Chen scored on all three for the women at the conference championship .In 2012, Li helped guide Amanda Lohman to two NCAA All-America honorable mentions, the first Michigan diver to receive two honors at the same NCAA Championships meet since 1994. On the men’s side, he coached Jack Lee to an eighth-place finish on platform and a 10th-place finish on three-meter.
“I want to thank Tom Jurich, Christine Simatacolos and Arthur Albiero for this opportunity to become the diving coach at U of L,” said Li. “I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I am very excited to be part of this program and to be able to help diving be able to match the wonderful success that swimming has had under Coach Albiero. I will do my best to help the program continue to improve and to be prepared to face the challenge of moving to the ACC.”
As a coach with 20-years of experience as a head coach, he was co-head coach of the U.S. Elite Diving Academy in Columbus, Ohio, for the two years prior to going to Michigan. Before that, Li led the National Training Centre of Diving in Melbourne, Australia, from 2006-08. In Melbourne, Li’s divers won 14 gold medals at the 2007 and 2008 Australian Elite Junior National Championships and two bronze medals at the 2008 Junior World Championships. His divers also won one gold and two silvers at the 2008 Australian Open (Senior) National Championships, with one diver finishing as high as fifth at the 2008 FINA World Championships.
He had a stint as the head diving coach at the University of Minnesota for seven years (1996-2003), where he produced eight NCAA All-Americans, six Big Ten champions and 45 Big Ten Championships finalists. In addition, three of his divers won Big Ten Diver of the Year and four were selected as Big Ten Diver of the Championships. Li is a two-time Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year, winning the honor in 2001 for the men and 1998 women.
Li’s coaching career began in 1991, as the head coach of Texas Aquatics (Austin, Texas) before being tabbed to lead Team Orlando (Fla.) Diving in 1993. While in Orlando, his team won the 1996 USA Diving Junior National Championships and placed second at the same event in both 1994 and 1995. He coached four USA Senior National champions and 10 USA Junior National champions during his four-year tenure.
Li has served as a head coach or coach for the USA Diving National Team on more than 20 occasions, including his instruction of divers at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. In addition, he has twice coached at the World Championships (1998, 2001), three times at the World Diving Cup (1993, 1995, 1997) and once at the 1995 Pan-American Games. For his efforts, Li was named USA Diving Junior Olympic Coach of the Year in 1994 and earned the Coach of Excellence Award at the USA Diving Senior National Championships in 1996.
His first full time coaching gig began in 1989, when he coached at George Washington University and Montgomery Diving Club (one of the top diving clubs in the US) from 1989-1991. One of his women’s divers became the first NCAA Division I from GWU in 1991.
“We are excited to welcome KZ to the Cardinal family. As Louisville moves into the ACC, KZ is a key addition to our talented swimming and diving coaching staff. His extensive collegiate and international experience will elevate our diving program at both the conference and national levels,” said U of L Associate Athletic Director Christine Simatacolos, who is the swimming and diving sports administrator.
As a major advocate for the sport of diving, Li has served on many boards and committees for USA Diving. He served as a member of the Diversity Committee (1992-98), the Rules Committee (1997-99) and the Olympic International Committee (1998-2000). In addition, he was also the Senior Chairman of the Minnesota Diving Association (from 1998-2003) and held the same post for the Pacific Diving Association (Southern California) from 2004 to 2006.
A highly decorated diver himself, Li was a three-time member of the Chinese Olympic Team, and won a bronze medal on the platform at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. From 1975-88, Li participated in more than 50 international competitions, winning 25 gold medals, 14 silver medals and 10 bronze medals. Li graduated from the Beijing Institute of Physical Education.
Li replaces five-time Conference Coach of the Year, Mike Zehnder, who retired from coaching after 17 years with the Cardinals.
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