MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, April 16. CURRENT USA Diving head coach Wenbo Chen has been hired as the diving coach at the University of Minnesota, athletics director Joel Maturi announced today. One of the most respected and accomplished coaches in the world, Chen has served as the head coach and associate director of USA Diving's National Training Center since 2005. Chen will begin his duties at the U of M on August 3 after completing the summer training program with USA Diving.
"We are so fortunate to hire someone of Wenbo's caliber and we welcome him to the Golden Gopher family," Maturi said. "He has earned an outstanding reputation internationally, in the United States and Big Ten and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Minnesota. He has worked with some of the greatest divers in the world and we know that our student-athletes will benefit from his talent."
During his time with USA Diving, Chen has guided 15 senior national champions, 12 junior national champions and two world cup medalists in addition to three Olympians. Prior to arriving in Indianapolis, Chen served in several key coaching roles, including a four-year tenure as the head coach at Purdue (2001-05) and seven years as a coach with the Chinese National Team and the Chinese Olympic Training Camp (1985-92).
"Minnesota is well-known as the best Big Ten program and one of the best in the nation," Chen said. "Minnesota has everything that a coach is looking for with the facility, the administration and the swimming coaches. In addition, the community support at Minnesota for swimming and diving is excellent. These are the things that my family and I were looking for."
"I am really excited about returning to college coaching. I miss the teamwork with between the swimmers and divers and the support network that you have in an athletic department. I am also excited about the combination of recruiting and coaching. Minnesota offers me the situation that I have been looking for."
Chen was named assistant coach for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team for diving after three of his divers were named to the squad – Haley Ishimatsu on 10-meter and synchronized 10-meter, and Kelci Bryant and Ariel Rittenhouse in synchronized 3-meter.
"Today, we are hiring one of the best coaches in the world," women's co-head coach Kelly Kremer said. "I am looking forward to working with a coach of Wenbo's caliber. I'm excited to see what his tutelage can bring to the swimming and diving program and be able to watch the program grow. It's certainly a great time for Minnesota swimming and diving."
"It's a great catch for the U of M," head men's coach Dennis Dale said. "When the job opened up, he was the person that we thought if he was available, he would be a dream coach for us. He has done it all already. He has coached Big Ten Champions, NCAA Champions and Olympians. He has coached at all levels."
In 2007, Chen served as a USA coach at the World Championships and Pan American Games as well as several other international meets. His divers claimed four of the seven U.S. medals won at the 2007 Pan Am Games, highlighted by silver medals from Ishimatsu on 10-meter and Bryant/Rittenhouse in synchronized 3-meter. He was also a coach at the 2008 World Cup in Beijing, where Bryant and Rittenhouse won a bronze medal in synchro.
His divers also won three national championships in 2007, most notable being Ishimatsu's win on 10-meter at the Speedo USA Diving Spring National Championships when the then-14-year-old defeated 2000 Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson to win on 10-meter title.
Ishimatsu's older sister, Tory, won junior national titles on 1-meter and 3-meter in 2007 and won the 1-meter gold at the 2007 Junior Pan American Championships.
In 2006, Chen was selected as a coach for the FINA World Cup, where the U.S. won five medals for its best World Cup performance since 1988. Bryant and Rittenhouse paired for a silver medal.
"Wenbo brings an elite level of professionalism to our program," co-head women's coach Terry Nieszner said. "Not only is he a great coach, but he has characteristics that our student-athletes will really embrace. Already, he has a great pride in the University and the state of Minnesota and we're ecstatic that he is joining the staff."
Prior to moving to the National Training Center, Chen was the head diving at Purdue University from 2001-2005. Among Chen's divers at Purdue was Carrie McCambridge, a Big Ten Diver of the Year and three-time conference champion and the second diving All-American in school history, which she accomplished four times. He was also the 2004 Big Ten Women's Diving Coach of the Year.
From 1996-2001, Chen coached at Moss Farms Diving in Moultrie, Ga., where he guided a number of national champions – including Bryant's older sister Katie Beth, who was a two-time senior national champion and NCAA All-American. Many of Chen's divers represented the United States in World Championships and other international competitions, both at the junior and senior level.
Chen immigrated to the U.S. from China in 1992. Before leaving his native country, he served as a national team coach from 1983-1991 and coached six Olympic medalists, including two-time gold medalists Ni Xiong and Ming Gao, and many national champions.
As a diver, he won a junior national title on 3-meter in 1976 and from 1977-1982, he was a finalist at the senior national level. Chen earned a bachelor's degree in physical education at Beijing Sports University in 1987.
Chen succeeds Jason Baumann, who resigned his position last month after four years as diving coach.
Special thanks to Minnesota for contributing this report.