Zhang continues to improve as Saluki diver

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Zhang continues to improve as Saluki diver

By Aaron Graff

Sophomore diver Cheri Zhang barely spoke English before her freshman year at SIU, but after putting in a lot of hard work, she has a GPA over 3.0 and has won multiple meets and awards.

Zhang has been diving competitively since her early teenage years, and she has told herself to never make the same mistake twice.

She has already been named Missouri Valley Conference diver of the week twice this season, and gives the majority of the credit to her teammates and coaches.


“Without my teammates helping me, I cannot win diver of the week,” Zhang said. “My teammates and my coaches help me a lot, so I really appreciate them.”

Zhang said her teammates always boost her confidence by giving her pep talks before almost all of her dives.

“Every time I don’t feel good or like I cannot make a dive, they just tell me ‘You are the best, and you can do it.’ They say positive words to me, so I keep improving,” Zhang said.

Diving coach, Joy Zhao, said she is proud of Zhang for all she has accomplished. She said Zhang barely knew English before moving from China to the United States, and has worked hard every day to be a good student and a good athlete.

“When she came her freshman year her English was not very good,” Zhao said. “In her country education teaches English at an elementary school level. She moved here, and it was very difficult for her. She studied and worked so hard and now her GPA is above 3.0.”

Her teammate, freshman Aiden Chipps said Zhang is extremely humble about all of her diving success, including her MVC Diver of the Week honors.

“She’s very modest about it,” Chipps said. “She won’t boast or rub it in other people’s faces.”

Chipps said Zhang has helped him improve his own diving.

“I try and copy her technique because she has really good technique, and that’s why she wins all the time.” Chipps said.

Chipps said Zhang is mostly reserved and keeps to herself. However, when she does open up she makes the team laugh. Everyone enjoys being around her.

“She’s really quiet when she talks,” Chipps said. “She can be quite funny and quite a lovely person. She brings a lot of humor to the team.”

Zhang said diving is a lot more fun to her in the United States than in China because the team seems to be a lot closer together during practices and competitions.

Zhang captured a conference title for the three-meter dive last season, and Zhao said she expects Zhang to do well in conference and compete in the NCAA tournament.

Zhang said diving is a metaphor for her life.

“Diving is like a lot of life experiences,” Zhang said. “Sometimes my dive is not good, sometimes (my) life is not good, (I) just have to keep telling (myself) (I) can do it, and when (I) make a hard dive (I am) happy from overcoming (my) fear.”