Diving into glory
Cougar diver Anastasia Pozdniakova and former Cougar diver Yulia Pakhalina joined the ranks of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Carl Lewis after medaling at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Pozdniakova and Pakhalina competed for their home county, Russia, in springboard synchronized diving and earned the silver medal, finishing behind Chinese stars Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia. Pakhalina said she is completely satisfied with her showing.
"Everybody wants the gold. Whoever is the luckiest and strongest mentally that day is going to win," Pakhalina told the Houston Chronicle. "I’m going to enjoy my silver medal. It’s like gold to me. Trust me."
She earned another silver medal in Beijing in 3-meter springboard diving, again finishing behind China’s Guo, bringing her career medal count at the Olympics to five.
Pozdniakova also competed in that event, but did not medal. The two were joined by another former Cougar, Tania Cognotto, who dove for Italy.
Cognotto spent just one season at UH, but swept all three diving events at the 2006 conference championships. She and Pakhalina are the only two divers in C-USA history to accomplish the feat.
Pakhalina, who competed for the Cougars from 2000-02, made a name for herself in the Olympics. She took home two medals – one bronze and one silver – in the 2004 Athens games and won a gold medal for synchronized diving in Sydney in 2000.
As a Cougar, Pakhalina earned Conference USA Diver of the Week honors 11 times and won NCAA individual national championships in both 1-meter and 3-meter springboard.
This was Pozdniakova’s first Olympics, but she is no stranger to excelling in tough competitions, either.
After sitting out her freshman season as a redshirt, Pozdniakova earned the silver medal at the C-USA Chamionships in 3-meter springboard and 1-meter springboard, helping lead UH to a sweep of the medal stand in that event. She also took home third in platform diving.
In the 2006-07 season, Pozdniakova won gold in both 1-meter and 3-meter springboard diving at the NCAA Zone D meet, earning All-American honors on her way to being named the 2007 C-USA Diver of the Year.
UH diving head coach Jane Figueiredo, who is in her 19th season with the Cougars, joined Pakhalina and Pozdniakova in Beijing in her third trip to the Olympics as an assistant coach for Russia. In 1996 she was an assistant coach for Great Britain and she competed in the 1984 Olympics in Portugal.