DAPHNE, Ala. – Noemi Zaharia is an Olympic medalist, world Universiade champion, successful former collegiate swimming coach and now an athletics administrator. She now has another title: doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy.
Zaharia’s impressive swimming record includes two medals in swimming at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, winning silver in the 400 meter mixed and bronze in the 200 meter mixed for Romania. She also won five gold medals, two bronze medals and MVP honors in swimming at the 1987 Summer Universiade in Yugoslavia. She also competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. She is currently director of the Aquatic and Fitness Center at Miami (Fla.) Dade College and is pursuing her Doctor of Education degree in sports management from the Academy.
“The education I am receiving from the Academy is priceless as it is focused on sports management, and the professors are very knowledgeable in sports and education,” Zaharia said.
“Having a curriculum that is strictly focused on sports is exceptional as it offers a multitude of angles and aspects of sports. Earning my doctoral degree will allow me to teach, to inspire, and educate the future coaches, physical educators, and sports professionals.
“The online program offered by the Academy has made it possible for me to earn my degree. Due to my very busy schedule I don’t have the time to attend classes in person and, as an Olympian, I am an overachiever who likes to complete my tasks at my own pace, which the on-line program allows me to do,” she said.
“The Academy having the highest level of academia will allow me to broaden my horizons and will help my evolution as a professor permitting me to insert my personal experiences for the betterment of future generations of teachers, coaches and sports professionals.”
Born Noemi Lung in Baia Mara, Romania, Zaharia moved to the United States in 1990. Because of her impressive swimming resume, she was given the opportunity to coach the sport at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) while she pursued her education. Zaharia earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from FAU and a master’s degree in sport and fitness administration from Florida International University (FIU).
“With my experience from two Olympic Games and all major world swimming competitions, I know that I had a lot to offer to the swimmers on the team,” Zaharia said. “I was in charge of recruiting for both the male and female teams, and developing and implementing the training schedule for most of the team. I recruited and coached four swimmers from three different countries who qualified and competed in the 1996 Olympic Games.”
After graduation, she married Olympic handball player Christian Zaharia and lived in Europe for some time. She later returned to the United States, where she was asked to return to FAU to continue working as a swimming coach. She was named associate head coach for FAU’s men’s and women’s teams.
In 2002, Zaharia was hired to start a new Division I women’s swimming team at Florida International University, serving as the head swimming and diving coach.
She also worked with as the technical programs director for the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), where she certified swimming coaches, developed teaching materials, and created a historical video of the history of the four Olympic swimming strokes, working with the International Swimming Hall of Fame historians.
“I recruited and coached swimmers from the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, South Africa and Europe,” she said. “My team obtained an overall 3.2 GPA, with more than half of the swimmers receiving either honor roll or dean’s list achievements which resulted in Academic All-American honors by the College Swimming Coaches Athletic Association (CSCAA). I also had swimmers qualify for and compete at the European Championships and African Games.”
She also coached a recreational swimming team in Miami Shores for 14 years, coaching youth swimmers to be ready for the sport at the high school level.
Zaharia left FIU to take her current position as director of the Aquatic and Fitness Center at Miami (Fla.) Dade College, where she has been instrumental in developing and implementing college wide wellness center rules and procedures including online membership registration. As the co-chair of the Wellness Committee, she organized and conducted yearly “Wellness Month” events to promote healthy lifestyles for students and employees. She coordinates college-wide activities for employees, such as the Susan G. Komen walk/run and employee wellness fairs. She is also the supervisor for the FIU internship site, where she oversees, evaluates and mentors students to graduation.
“My ultimate dream as an athlete was to be an Olympian and win a medal,” she said.
“Winning two Olympic medals in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games was the culmination of my life’s work, of all the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices that I made to achieve my ultimate dream as an athlete. My success at Universiade in 1987 was the first major confirmation that I was on the right track to achieve my Olympic dream. Representing my country and being the best in the world was an emotional time, motivating me to reach even higher, to dream and work even harder to achieve my dreams.”
The Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.
The Academy is based in Daphne, Ala. For more information, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.