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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dive coach finishes long journey back to Tucson

Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats head diving coach Omar Ojeda has overcome multiple obstacles in his journey to the UA.

The Roman poet Ovid once said, “There is no excellence uncoupled with difficulties.” Very few people know that better than Omar Ojeda.

Ojeda, born in Mexico City, Mexico, is an Arizona alumnus and the most decorated male diver in school history. He’s made it back to Tucson as Arizona’s first-year head diving coach, but it wasn’t an easy journey.

Ojeda’s hiring was made official in June but he encountered a problem in his paperwork to acquire an American work visa and was sidelined for much longer than he’d anticipated.

The wait led Ojeda to move to the United States in November on a tourist visa after selling his car and clearing out his apartment, a process he said took about a month.

“I had my savings from selling my car and was just waiting for the proper paperwork, but it’s what I had to do,” Ojeda said. “I finished my paperwork but they were asking for more papers and more papers every time.”

Neither sophomore Samantha Pickens nor senior Ben Grado, two of the team’s most successful divers, had anything but praise for him and his coaching style.

“He’s a young coach, a young guy that brings all this new stuff to our workouts and having that definitely makes workout more fun and more enjoyable,” Grado said. “It just gives the team more motivation to practice harder and compete harder.”

But Ojeda’s youth isn’t the only thing that helps him connect with Arizona’s athletes. His experience in diving helped him pick up subtle nuances that only the sport’s most experienced coaches might notice.

“I like tiny specifics, and (Ojeda) definitely gives me that,” Pickens said.

While coaching and working as an administrator for the Mexican National dive team, Ojeda coached three divers who won either world diving championships or Olympic medals. He also dove for the Mexican National team from 1990 to 2008 and is a 17-time Mexican National Champion.

While at Arizona, Ojeda was a two-time Pac-10 Athlete of the Year and five-time NCAA All-American. He set four school diving records that still stand today.

Ojeda first discovered his passion for diving as a youth traveling with his father to his hometown and popular tourist destination, Acapulco, Mexico, located on the southern coast of the country.

“I usually would go there with him to visit the ocean,” Ojeda said. “The first thing my dad made me do was learn how to swim. Swimming is very close to diving, so I used to watch the divers jump from the platforms and springboards. Before I even learned how to fully swim, I told my parents I wanted to dive.”

And after his diving career ended, the only logical thing to do was coach. Ojeda said he knew that was the path he wanted to travel, and ultimately hoped it would take him back to the UA.

“Arizona changed my life in so many different ways, it just gave me so much,” Ojeda said. “I knew that I wanted to … one day come back to the University of Arizona and try to lend my knowledge to the divers so they could be better on the diving platform.”

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