By Vera Sauchanka
Sometimes life brings you interesting people, and this is exactly what happened to us last week when we were introduced to a diving coach Norman Chu.
A few years ago Chu has successfully completed his unique field research around the U.S., along with his mentor and former head of the Chinese Olympic diving team, legendary Xu Yiming, who led his country to be the Olympic leader in diving, winning more medals than any other country in the world. In 2003, coach Xu Yiming has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
“He’s the legend that inspired us to travel around the States,” says Chu.
From mid 2005 to mid 2009, Norman and Xu traveled all over the country and visited swimming pools and gyms, in search for a perfect location to open a new diving training center in the United States to train the next world champions.
Coach Yiming practices Dryland training, and his goal is for it to become mainstream in the United States. It is a unique technique that has not been fully developed here, and is focused on starting training divers on a regimen of dry land, trampoline and hoops before attempting the risky twists. For divers it gave an ultimate chance to perfect their techniques – with persistence and repetition, which led China to be the leader in divers who won medals at the Olympics. It also helped to improve safety of the trainings.
“In these trips we went to see gymnastic and agility sports training, colleges that have a required platform,” Chu said. “Sometimes we drove several hours just to see a gym or a swimming pool. Coach can simply take a look at the equipment and know how they’re training, because a lot of equipment has been invented and perfected by him.”
Not everything on the trip went right. Norman and Xu had to go through several major snowstorms and one accident, when a 2004 Prius, in which they traveled, literally saved their lives.
“It was a midnight, we were driving Northbound at I-35, approximately 20 miles South of Norman, Oklahoma, with a speed of around 60-65mph,” Norman said. “I noticed in the rearview mirror that a truck is quickly approaching us from behind. The first impulse for everyone to avoid collisions is to brake, but I actually accelerated a little bit, which allowed us to avoid the collision. The truck did end up hitting us in the rear, the Prius was totaled, but we were alive and well.”
The mileage on the Prius at that time was 160,000 miles, Norman says. He still has a picture of a totaled car in his old New York apartment and calls what happened a “miracle of Norman.”
“I acknowledge the car in myself. It never failed us once. Doesn’t matter if there was 0°F, or 100°F – we kept driving, stopping only for coffee and gas.”
The field research has led Xu and Norman to Chicago. According to Norman, this is the only area where they found so many platforms that could be great ground for a new training center, and so many people looking to reach their full potential in sports.
Both Norman and Xu see the United States as a powerhouse for sports and education, having all the top resources available for people.
“China is a powerhouse for golden medals, don’t get me wrong,” says Norman smiling. “But the States is the powerhouse for sports and education.”
Additionally to training divers in the new center, Norman and Xu are looking to bring the diving training to those Chicago neighborhoods that lack sports and infrastructure, such as Englewood and Lawndale.
“We’re looking to turn street kids into athletes,” he said.
According to Norman, the optimal age to start training is 8-10 years old, however, they will be working with adult athletes as well. With a passion and dedication to succeed, Norman and Xu are looking for like-minded individuals across all communities with whom they can train and work together. If you feel the same way and are inspired by this story, you can reach Norman at (917) 822-8388 to talk more about this opportunity.