The United States Sports Academy is bolstering its presence in the world of higher education and sport with the hiring of two decorated Olympians to its leadership and faculty roster. Olympic swimming medalist Dr. Noemi Zaharia and Olympic handball player Cristian Zaharia joined the USSA family in January.

Dr. Noemi Zaharia is USSA’s new Director of Sport Leadership and an associate professor, while Cristian Zaharia is USSA’s Director of International Sport Business Development and a member of the faculty.

“What a gift the Zaharias are to our USSA family,” USSA President Dr. Steve Condon said. “Olympic and world champions with the academic credentials, passion, and experience needed to lead a world class sports university. In my 44 years in higher education, I have never seen more talented, humble, student-focused global representatives that fit a university better than them. We are blessed to have Cristian and Noemi Zaharia join our faculty and staff. I am humbled and honored that they have decided to share their talents with us, our students, and all those who dream of achieving ‘The Gold Standard’ for their higher educational pursuits.”

“It is an incredible honor to have Dr. Noemi Zaharia and Cristian Zaharia as members of our team here,” USSA vice president of academic affairs Dr. Fred Cromartie said. “I am positive that their passion, experience, and expertise will be of great value to the future growth and development of USSA.”


Dr. Noemi Zaharia, OLY

The two-time Olympian, 1988 & 1992, and two-time Olympic medalist swimmer has been a head coach for NCAA Division I for over twenty years, qualifying four swimmers to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. She has over a decade of experience managing college recreation facilities and developing wellness programs and events.

“It is an exciting opportunity for me to establish and grow the USSA Sports Leadership Institute,” Dr. Noemi Zaharia said. “With my academic expertise, Olympic medalist experience, and Olympic research, I am confident that USSA will reach its highest potential. I will strive to inspire the next generation of sports leaders, scientists, and coaches, making USSA a leader in the sports community. I am confident that together, we can make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of students, our community, and the world”.

A promoter for sports and fitness for all, providing educational programs and resources to students, faculty, and staff at universities to promote a healthier campus, address the obesity epidemic in the world, and promote mental health.

After receiving her Doctor of Education in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, USA, her primary research interest is in the leadership skills of Olympic athletes. She aims to enhance their ability to successfully transition from athletes to life after sports by marketing their outstanding leadership capabilities to prospective employers.

Her academic experience and knowledge include teaching various Sports Management and Coaching courses at Florida International University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville to diverse student populations. To enhance students’ learning opportunities, she also updated numerous sports management courses and developed new courses, including Women in Sport, creating interdepartmental collaboration and cross-course offerings.

A passionate advocate of helping others reach their full potential and live a healthy and successful life, she incorporates this passion into her leadership and teaching philosophy to inspire the next generation of athletes, sports leaders, and people of all ages and ability levels.

Valentin Cristian Zaharia, OLY

As a 1992 Olympian, world No. 1 player, and bronze medalist at the World Championships, selected to the World Team in the sport of Team Handball, Cristian Zaharia has succeeded not only as an athlete but also as an Olympic coach and businessman.

“I look forward to bringing my knowledge, passion, and drive to USSA,” Cristian Zaharia said. “The Academy will become the benchmark for sports management, sports science, and other opportunities. My drive is to expand the reach of USSA to every corner of the globe and create the conditions for every athlete, Olympian, and sports enthusiast to get their education at this fine institution. USSA can and will become the driving force of creation, knowledge uniqueness, and opportunity for its students and faculty in the sports industry”.

After winning numerous National Championships with his team, Dinamo Bucharest in Romania, as a professional player, he became the Swedish National Champion with Drott Halmstad, the French Champion with Pontault-Combault, and the Top scorer and MVP of the team HSV Dusseldorf in Germany, and USA National Champion with Garden City team.

Coaching became his passion, coaching children of all ages and ability levels in Sweden and France. His coaching career culminated with a Bronze medal at the Pan American Games as a Head coach of the USA Men’s National team in 2003. He also served as the Head Coach for the Women’s Selection Committee and camp for the USA National Team and Special Counselor for the Junior Pan American Championships

His coaching accomplishments were rewarded by being named Coach of the Year by the USA Olympic Committee two years in a row in 2002 and 2003.

Cristian Zaharia is a Pioneer in organizing an international sporting event at AA Arena, Final Four for the French professional team handball league, which was broadcast in over 82 countries and reached 120 million viewers.

He is also the special TV commentator and analyst for BeInSports for all broadcasts of team handball in the USA.

He has completed his MBA in Management and Strategy at Western Governors University.

Since completing his MBA, he has been an Adjunct Professor at MDC and FIU. His teaching philosophy is to relate the theory to real-life events, where the students can understand how to apply all the concepts they are learning in the classroom. Also, he is inspiring the students to open their horizons, learn about different cultures, norms, and rules, and understand how they can better their business careers.

In the classroom, the students will constantly be challenged to participate, and the assignments have a practical application, being used later to start businesses or grow and expand an existing one.

He is in the process of finishing his Doctorate in Business Administration, DBA.