Chunhua "Joy" Zhao wasted little time making a mark in her first year as the Saluki diving coach. Zhao was named MVC Invitational Diving Coach-of-the-Year at her first MVC Invitational Meet, after coaching then SIU freshman Brandon Birchak to the 1 and 3-Meter titles and a MVC Invitational Diver-of-the-Year award. Birchak was also named all-MVC Invitational on both boards.
In addition to the MVC Invitational success, Birchak and former senior Adam Peper both qualified for the NCAA Zone D Meet in Houston, Texas. Birchak finished ninth in the 3-Meter and 12th in the 1-Meter, while Peper finished 11th in the 1-Meter and 13th in the 3-Meter, representing SIU well.
Peper (2nd) was also named All-MVC Invitational in the 3-Meter dive and earned all-MVC Invitational Honorable Mention honors in the 1-Meter (4th) dive.
Andrew Flor and Ben Palacios each finished in the top eight on both boards, earning all-MVC Invitational Honorable Mention honors. Andrea Johnson (8th in 1-Meter) and Nadine Shawah (5th in 3-Meter), two of the three women Zhao coached, also earned all-MVC Honorable Mention honors.
The former international diver came to SIU in 2003 with 20 years as a diving coach, ranging from the international to high school levels, in addition to her personal experience as an international diver in China.
Zhao has also continued the tradition of a strong personality on the pool deck, and carries a strong knowledge of the sport, and an attention to detail consistent in SIU's diving coaches.
She comes to SIU from Fresno State University, where she was the women's diving coach from 1999-2003. At Fresno State, her divers qualified for the NCAA Zone Meet and reached the Western Athletic Conference finals every year, placing a diver as high as fifth in the WAC finals. During that same time she also served as the head coach for the Fresno (Calif.) Diving Club.
From 1997-99, Zhao was an assistant diving coach at the University of Nevada, where she coached Lang Rao, who finished second at the 1999 NCAA championships. In 1999, she also was the head coach at the Carson Valley Diving Club.
Prior to coaching in the U.S., Zhao held three international coaching positions in her native China. From 1993-97, she served her second stint as the men's and women's diving coach for the Tianjin Province Diving Team.
During her four years, she had a woman's diver win the silver medal on the platform at the 17th World University Games, a gold medal at the 2nd Youth Games of China and a bronze medal at the 1996 Chinese National Meet. She also coached Sang Xue to a silver medal at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Her work earned her the Excellence in Coaching Award in 1992 and 1993.
She also served as the diving coach for the Chinese National Team from 1989-93, where one of her divers finished fourth in the women's platform dive at the 25th Olympic Games (1992), second in the platform at the 7th World Cup and second in the platform at the 16th World University Games.
Zhao began her coaching career as the men's and women's diving coach for the Tianjin Province Diving Team from 1983-89. During her time there, two of her male and female divers qualified for the Chinese National Diving Team.
Prior to coaching, she competed internationally as a member of the Chinese National Diving Team from 1977-79, following four years (1973-77) as a member of the Tianjin Diving Team.
Zhao received her bachelor's degree in physical education in 1989 from Tian-Jin University in her hometown of Tianjin, China. She lives in Carbondale with her husband, Mark Liu, and their sons, Matthew and Charles.