Former Olympian Natasha Chikina (chick-EE-nuh) is entering her ninth season as Nebraska's head diving coach following a successful diving career at the University of Southern California and competition at two summer Olympic Games.
Chikina has proven herself worthy of her position by leading Husker divers to 24 NCAA Zone diving meet appearances in the past eight years. Senior Payton Michaud and sophomore Nicole Schwery return this season after qualifying for the meet in 2012-13, while senior Kaitlan Walker returns to the NU diving corps after qualifying in 2011-12.
With Chikina's own success on the boards, she will look to utilize her experience in the sport of diving and continue to lead a talented Husker diving squad toward the top of the conference and NCAA Championship berths.
"As a coach, my job is to recognize the highest potential of each diver," Chikina said. "I want to make them believe in themselves by creating a positive and goal-setting environment. With hard work, discipline and encouragement, I want to bring every one of them to their highest level of performance."
Chikina, a native of Kazakhstan, competed at the Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) Summer Olympic Games. Chikina finished 15th at the Atlanta Games, before capturing a ninth-place finish on the 10-meter platform in Sydney. Between competitions, Chikina placed fourth at the 1998 NCAA Championships for the University of Southern California, where she earned NCAA All-America honors in 1997 and 1998. She was also the Pac-10 champion on the three-meter springboard in 1997 and 1998.
Chikina competed at the Goodwill Games (1994), the World Championships (1994-96) and the FINA Grand Prix (2000), placing as high as third in both the World Championships and FINA Grand Prix.
Following her diving career as an athlete, Chikina immediately began her quest to become a head diving coach. She was the assistant coach of the Trojan Diving Club from 1998 to 2001, coaching two Junior Olympic national champions, and the assistant diving coach at her alma mater, USC, in 1998-99, helping coach future Olympians Troy Dumais and Dorte Linder.
From 2001 to 2005, Chikina served as the assistant head coach at the U.S. Diving Regional Training Center where she took on many responsibilities. Primarily, she coached a two-time Oklahoma state high school champion, two Junior Olympic National Team members and four Junior Olympic National qualifiers. Among her other responsibilities, Chikina scouted, recruited and judged competitions up to the national level. She also scheduled team trips, camps and programs. Chikina coached at the 2003 U.S. Diving National Training Camp, instructing junior national-level athletes in the spotting belt, trampoline and dryboard.
Chikina earned her bachelor's degree in social science and communications from USC in 1999, after completing her physical education and coaching degree from the Kazakh Institute of Physical Education in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 1996.
Natasha and her husband, Kris, moved to Lincoln in the summer of 2005. Kris served as a volunteer assistant for the Husker diving team in 2005-06 and is now coaching for the Nebraska Diving Club. The couple has two daughters, Katerina, born in December 2005, and Sophia Alexandra, born in October 2010.