James Martinez, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, will be coaching Ugandan 2020 Olympic singles rower Kathleen Noble in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. Martinez, himself a 5-time U.S. National and Olympic team member between 1993-1998, began working with Noble this past July after she moved to Knoxville with her husband, Nico.
“Kathleen is an exceptionally competitive athlete, and an even better person,” says Martinez. A 28-year-old graduate of Princeton University, Noble was an internationally competitive youth swimmer, having competed at the 2012 Short-Course World Championships in Istanbul. Holder of many Ugandan national records in freestyle and butterfly events, she started rowing as a walk–on athlete in her sophomore year of college and ultimately competed at the 2019 Under-23 World Rowing Championships.
Competing for Uganda in the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021 due to COVID), Noble is the first rower ever to compete for her country. “Kathleen is a world-class athlete in every sense of the word,” says Martinez. “Her passion to understand every aspect of the sport, from racing, to nutrition, to training, to rigging the boat is inspiring.” Martinez and Noble recently returned from the African Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tunisia, where she placed fourth among fifteen woman single scullers, qualifying her for the Paris games.
Martinez balances his academic research (focused on school administrator self-efficacy), teaching and service demands, and family responsibilities while supervising Noble’s preparation for the Olympics. “Days are pretty full,” he says, “but no more so than when I was a schoolteacher and in training myself while raising our young children back in the day.”
Martinez credits his wife, Elizabeth, who earned her Master’s degree from UT’s School of Landscape Architecture, for her incredible support. “She’s the glue that holds it all together.”