The Official Site of the FIU Panthers
Noemi Lung-Zaharia
Position: Head Coach
Noemi Lung-Zaharia
Release: 10/06/2006
The FIU swimming & diving program has known only one head coach in its six years of competition in Noemi Lung-Zaharia. An accomplished Olympian, international and collegiate swimmer, Lung-Zaharia has steadily built FIU into a Sun Belt Conference contender with the same fervor, work ethic, drive and intensity she demonstrated as an athlete herself.

The Panthers are coming off a 2008-09 season that ended on a high note at the Sun Belt Conference Swimming and Diving Championships, as five school records were broken. Danielle Sneir established new standards in both the 100 and 200 backstroke events  with times of 57.98 and 2:05.73, respectively, and Sara Giovannoni ended her collegiate career with a record-breaking performance in the 400 IM (4:26.85). Colleen Neubert, Kariann Stevens, Caroline Foster and Elly James combined for an FIU all-time best 200 freestyle relay time of 1:39.84, and James, Stevens, Nicola MacKenzie, and Regina Mayer set a school record in the 800 freestyle relay with a mark of 7:50.75. In addition, the Panthers recorded 15 lifetime bests and 19 season bests at the conference meet.

The FIU swimming & diving student-athletes also excelled in the classroom last season, notching an average team GPA of over 3.0. As a result, the squad was named an Academic All-American Team, receiving an award that is presented annually by the College Swim Coaches Association of America.

The 2007-08 season saw the FIU swimming & diving program break five school records. Lung-Zaharia guided Giovannoni to a pair of NCAA B-cut performances in the 200 breaststroke, earning the senior a spot in the NCAA Championships where she went on to place 18th in a school-record time of 2:14.38.

In 2006-07, Lung-Zaharia's program stepped onto the national scene, becoming the youngest program in NCAA history to have a qualifier compete for a national championship with Giovannoni placing 18th in the 200 breaststroke. Diver Lindsay Lowell complemented Giovannoni's accomplishment, becoming the program's second Sun Belt Conference Diver of the Year and advancing to the NCAA Diving Zones. Those accomplishments were flanked by a fifth-place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships, a performance that included Zita Zalai's fourth straight 100 butterfly conference championship.

Lung-Zaharia guided FIU to a fourth-place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships in 2005-06, and also saw her swimmers notch two NCAA B-cuts throughout the year. In the off-season, Zalai competed in the 2006 European Championships under Lung-Zaharia's watch.

A native of Romania, Lung-Zaharia brings an accolade-filled background to FIU, both as a coach and as a competitor. She competed in the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympic Games, taking the silver medal in the 400 IM and the bronze in the 200 IM in 1988. Prior to that, she swam in the 1987 World University Games where she won five gold and two bronze medals, before receiving the Most Valuable Athlete Award. She took the bronze medal in the 400 IM at the 1986 World Championships and collected two gold medals and a bronze at the 1986 Goodwill Games.

Lung-Zaharia attended Florida Atlantic University where she earned All-America honors in 1991 and 1992. She took eight NCAA Division II individual championships while swimming for the Owls and still holds the national championship record in the women's 400 IM (4:20.68). In 1992, she was named the NCAA's Female Athlete of the Year and was also honored with the Honda Award for Excellence in Sports. In the fall of 2006, Lung-Zaharia was inducted into the FAU Hall of Fame.

Lung-Zaharia's coaching career began as a student assistant at her alma mater and she then went on to serve as the associate head coach at FAU for both the men and women's programs from 1997-2000. During her tenure, she mentored four qualifiers at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., and was also involved with the coaching and the recruiting of 1997 National Champion Bela Szabados.

In all, Lung-Zaharia managed the FAU recruiting program that helped produce five national qualifiers, three competitors in the 2000 South American Games and one participant in the World University Games and European Championships.

A community activist, Lung-Zaharia organizes and conducts volunteer pre-school and stroke-victim swimming programs and is a motivational speaker to students and athletes in her native Romania as well as in the United States. Additionally, her teams at FIU have collaborated with the staff at the Miami-Dade County owned Tamiami Pool to host free clinics.

Lung-Zaharia is married to Cristian Zaharia. The couple has one son, Victor.


The Lung-Zaharia File

Athletic Achievements: 

  • 1988 Olympic Games: Silve-400 IM; Bronze-200 IM; 10th-400 freestyle
  • 1992 Olympic Games: 11th place-400 IM
  • World Record Holder: 400 IM, (held for six years), equaled the 400 freestyle
  • European Record Holder (broken after almost 15 years): 400 IM
  • Ranked No. 1 in the world in 200 IM in 1986, 1987
  • Ranked No. 1 in the world in 400 IM in 1986, 1987 and 1988
  • 1987 World University Games: Five Gold, Two Bronze, Voted MVP of the Games
  • 1987 European Champ: Gold-400 IM; Silver-4x200 Freestyle Relay; Bronze-200 IM; Fourth-400 freestyle; Fifth-800 freestyle
  • 1986 World Championships: Bronze-400 IM
  • 1986 Goodwill Games: Two Gold-in 200 IM and 400 IM; Bronze-400 Free
  • 1991-1993 NCAA Champiwonships: Eight-Time National Champion
  • Record Holder in 200 and 400 IM
  • Female Athlete of the Year: NCAA Division II and at Florida Atlantic University

Professional Achievements:

  • 2002-present: Head Coach at Florida International University
  • 2001-present: Head Coach at Miami Shores Village Swimming Team
  • Founder and vice president of New Sports Enterprises Inc. (NSE)
  • Voted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Congress
  • Member of the World Olympians Association
  • 2000-2001: Technical Programs Director-American Swimming Coaches Association
  • 1997-2000: Associate Head Men's and Women's Swim Coach at FAU
    -Two qualifiers for NCAA Division I Championships
    -One qualifier for the World University Games and European Championship
    -Three qualifiers for the South American Games
  • 1997-2000: Nike Swim Camps - Conducted swimming camps for children of all ages and ability levels
  • 1998-2000: Organized and conducted volunteer programs to teach swimming to pre-school-age children
  • 1993-1995: Assistant Swim Coach for both Men's and Women's teams at FAU
    -Four participants at the 1996 Olympic Games
    -One Men's NCAA Division I Champion in the 200-yard freestyle
  • Level 4 ASCA (American Swim Coaches Association) Certification
  • Level 5 ASCTA (Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association) Certification