The Golden Gophers have one of the most respected and accomplished diving coaches in the world in Wenbo Chen. Following four years as USA Diving’s head coach, he joined Minnesota’s staff on April 16, 2009. Chen has been named the Big Ten Women’s Diving Coach of the Year six times since arriving at Minnesota, and was also named the Men’s Diving Coach of the Year in 2016. He has coached two national champions, multiple Big Ten Divers of the Year and Olympic medalists.
Kelci Bryant, who transferred to Minnesota to work with Chen, won the 2010 NCAA 3-meter title in the pair’s first year with the Gophers. Bryant would win the 1-meter championship the following year, becoming the first Gopher diver to claim multiple national crowns.
Yu Zhou was named the 2015 NCAA Diver of the Year after winning the 3-meter gold, taking bronze on the 1-meter board and finishing fifth on the platform. In 2017, Zhou won another 3-meter title. She finished her career with seven All-America accolades in three seasons.
Lexi Tenenbaum was named the CSCAA's 2017 Diver of the Year after collecting All-America honors in all three events, including two "A" finals. Sarah Bacon was the NCAA runner-up in 1-meter and earned All-America status in 3-meter at the same meet.
Chen has coached his divers to 42 All-America honors in just eight seasons. Minnesota has consistently sent multiple divers to the NCAA Championships. Competing at recent NCAA meets were four men and four women in 2015, four men and three women in 2016 and three women and two men in 2017. On the men's side, Matt Barnard recently finished his career with five All-America honors in three years, earning two in 2017.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS AND AWARDS
Chen earned his first Big Ten Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award in 2004 at Purdue, where he served as diving coach from 2001-05. He received the honor at Minnesota in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2016 he was also named Co-Big Ten Men’s Diving Coach of the Year.
Three different Gopher women’s divers have collected multiple Big Ten Diver of the Year laurels each. Bryant accomplished the feat in 2010 and 2011, Maggie Keefer did so in 2013 and 2014, and Yu Zhou captured that title in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Chen also coached 2004 Big Ten Diver of the Year Carrie McCambridge at Purdue. All four of those divers were named Big Ten Diver of the Championships those same years, with Keefer and Zhou earning that recognition three times each.
Chen has coached Gopher women’s divers to 15 Big Ten gold medals. Zhou swept the 2016 Big Ten diving events and won on both springboards in 2015 and 2017.
Chen’s impact has shown on the men’s side from the time of his arrival. In his inaugural season at Minnesota, the Gophers qualified two divers (Drew Brown and Kris Jorgensen) for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1991.
In 2012, Jorgensen’s win on the platform was Minnesota’s first conference diving title in 11 years. Jorgensen was named Big Ten Diver of the Championships. In 2016, Matt Barnard captured the 3-meter championship.
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Chen served as the USA Diving head coach and associate director of USA Diving's National Training Center from 2005-09. During his time with USA Diving, Chen guided 15 senior national champions, 12 junior national champions and two World Cup medalists in addition to three Olympians.
Under Chen's guidance Kelci Bryant was named to the U.S. Olympic Team for the second time for the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she and partner Abby Johnston won the Olympic silver medal in women's synchronized 3-meter diving. The medal was Team USA's first in diving since 2000, and first in the 12-year Olympic history of synchronized diving.
Chen was earlier named assistant coach for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team for diving after three of his divers were named to the squad: Haley Ishimatsu on 10-meter and synchronized 10-meter, and Bryant and Ariel Rittenhouse in synchronized 3-meter.
In 2007, Chen served as a USA coach at the World Championships and Pan American Games as well as several other international meets. His divers claimed four of the seven U.S. medals won at the 2007 Pan Am Games. He was also a coach at the 2008 World Cup in Beijing, where Bryant and Rittenhouse won a bronze medal in synchro. Chen’s divers won three national championships in 2007, most notable being Ishimatsu's win on 10-meter at the Speedo USA Diving Spring National Championships when the then-14-year-old defeated 2000 Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson to win on 10-meter title.
In 2006, Chen was selected as a coach for the FINA World Cup, where the U.S. won five medals for its best World Cup performance since 1988. Bryant and Rittenhouse paired for a silver medal.
From 1983-91, Chen was the coach for the Chinese National Team. He coached six Olympic medalists, including two-time gold medalists Ni Xiong and Ming Gao, and many national champions.
BACKGROUND AND OTHER COACHING EXPERIENCE
Chen came to the U.S. from China in 1992. Chen's coaching timeline in North America began that year when he became the head coach of the Edmonton Diving Club, where he served for three years. He moved to Georgia to be an assistant coach at Moss Farms Diving for two seasons prior to taking over as the head coach. He also spent the 1998 season as the interim head coach at Florida State University.
From 1996-2001, Chen coached at Moss Farms Diving in Moultrie, Ga., where he guided a number of national champions - including Bryant's older sister Katie Beth, who was a two-time senior national champion and NCAA All-American. Many of Chen's divers represented the United States in World Championships and other international competitions, both at the junior and senior level.
As a diver, Chen won a junior national title on 3-meter in 1976 and from 1977-1982, he was a finalist at the senior national level. Chen earned a bachelor's degree in physical education at Beijing Sports University in 1987.
Chen and his wife, Wenyin Han, have two daughters, Amy and Annie.
US Nationals Start on Tuesday
Eleven Golden Gophers, including several program record holders, will compete in Indianapolis this week.
Gophers Receive CSCAA Scholar All-America Recognition
Both the men's and women's teams earned academic distinction from the coaches association.
Former swim coach Eckelkamp Passes Away
Gopher Athletics is saddened to learn that former assistant men's swimming and diving coach Steve Eckelkamp has passed away at his home on June 10, in Mount Juliet, Tenn.