Diver wins, leads, inspires

Junior diver Anastasia Pozdniakova has done it all for the UH swimming and diving team.

She won an NCAA title in the one-meter diving event at the 2009 NCAA Championships on March 19 at College Station. By garnering the honor, Pozdniakova became the first Cougar to win a national title since five-time NCAA title winner Yulia Pakhalina in 2003. Pozdniakova teamed up with Pakhalina to win a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Head diving coach Jane Figueiredo has guided Pozdniakova along the way and is excited about the prospect of more honors to come.

‘(Pozdniakova) has developed and matured into one of the best divers in the NCAA as well as the world,’ Figueiredo said. ‘She won the silver medal in Beijing last summer and then tops off her season with being the NCAA champion. She has a unique style and grace to her diving and we look forward to her winning more next year and in the future.’

Pozdniakova’s list of feats as a Cougar are staggering: seven-time C-USA Diver of the Week, 2007 C-USA Championships Diver of the Meet, numerous All-Conference USA second and third team appearances for platform, one-meter and three-meter diving and, most notably, NCAA Diver of the Year in 2007. She also became the first Cougar to finish in the top 10 in all three diving events at the NCAA Championships since Linda Pesek in 1991.

UH’s swimmers and divers have reached many goals and represent a program that has been a continued bright spot for the entire university. Swim team co-captain Sasha Schwendenwein is no stranger to breaking records and winning awards, but even she looks to the platform for inspiration.

‘Having someone as accomplished and professional as (Pozdniakova) is motivation in itself,’ Schwendenwein said, ‘but she is also humble and pushes both the divers and swimmers to a higher level of expectation.’

Pozdniakova’s hard work and honors have also influenced the younger members of the team. Freshmen swimmer Kim Eeson will lead the team in the future and she has great role models in the pool to shape the type of leader she becomes.

‘Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve,’ Eeson said. ‘(Pozdniakova) is a great example of this, as she has set the bar high for all the Lady Cougars on the swimming and diving team. We can only hope and train hard to get to the level of excellence that she has achieved.’

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