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Martens ready to dive into new coaching position

Former U diver Mike Martens is the Gophers’ new men’s and women’s diving coach.

During his time as a diving coach in Australia, Mike Martens coached three Olympic athletes, six world junior finalists and 13 junior national champions.

But despite all his success Down Under, Martens hardly thought twice about switching employers after receiving his latest job offer.

Martens began his tenure as Minnesota’s diving coach last Friday after spending four years as head coach at the South Australian Sports Institute. The University announced his hiring June 4.

“It was a simple decision,” Martens said last week via e-mail. “It’s really about coming full circle.”

An Anoka, Minn., native, Martens dove for the Gophers in 1982-83 and stayed with the team as a volunteer assistant coach from 1988-93.

He then became head coach of the aquatics club team at the University of Texas in 1994 before moving to Adelaide, Australia, in 1999.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach some of the best divers in the USA and in Australia,” Martens said. “Hopefully, I’ll be coaching some of the best divers in the USA again, soon, at Minnesota.”

Although Martens will not return to the United States until Aug. 16, he has already begun sending letters and e-mails to potential Minnesota recruits, as well as planning conditioning workouts for his divers.

“He’s fulfilling his obligations as a head coach down there,” Minnesota’s men’s swimming coach Dennis Dale said. “It’s something we knew about during the interview process and we’re still very happy to have Mike as part of our staff.”

Martens is currently working with Minnesota’s top returning diver, Rebecca Cornthwaite, who is training with Martens back in her hometown of Adelaide.

As a junior last season, Cornthwaite finished ninth in the platform competition at the 2003 NCAA championships. She is one of three on the Minnesota swimming and diving team who will compete at the World University Games in South Korea beginning Aug. 16.

At Minnesota, Martens will be responsible for both the men’s and women’s diving teams.

The men finished seventh at the 2003 NCAA championships. It was the fourth straight year the team has been among the nation’s top 10 teams.

The women’s swimming and diving team finished sixth at last year’s Big Ten championships, up three spots from 2002.

Martens replaces former Minnesota diving coach Kongzheng Li, a four-time Chinese Olympian and bronze medalist at the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles.

After seven seasons with the Gophers, Li and his family moved to Miami in July. He has since become a part-time assistant coach at Florida International University.

When asked about his successor, Li spoke first about Martens’ personable character and his ability to connect with athletes.

“He will be very successful in recruiting and coaching,” Li said. “He is very creative, willing to try something new.”

Li, who had coaching stints in Orlando, Fla., Austin, Texas, and Bethesda, Md., before arriving at Minnesota, knows all too well of the traveling diving coaches tend to endure.

“It’s a good move for him coming home,” Li said of Martens. “Hopefully, it will be the last place for him.”

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]

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