Olga Chernova: Overcoming Barriers to Succeed at MSU

March 24, 2014

By Nick Barnowski, MSU Athletic Communications student assistant

During her freshman year, eating at the cafeteria was a little difficult for Olga Chernova.

Not only did the Moscow, Russia, native have to adjust to a brand new college lifestyle, she had to learn another language as well, so when deciding which utensils to use to eat, there was understandable confusion.

"I lived in the dorms with Marina (Bohrer) and our English was so bad that I didn't know what a fork was and she didn't know what a spoon was," Chernova recalled. Bohrer, a senior on the Michigan State women's tennis team, is from Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Four years later, she has taken a shine to the college lifestyle and is excelling on the tennis court as a member of the Michigan State women's tennis team.

"I had to overcome (the barriers)," Chernova said. "I think it took me a while, but now I'm feeling good about it all."

It's easy to see why she's picking up good vibrations. The senior has successfully coupled success on the tennis court with the excitement of being a student-athlete in the United States.

Her tennis journey that has seen her span the globe started at age seven when she first picked up a racket.

"I liked the game initially and I started to participate in competitions when I was nine," the now 21-year-old said. "When I was 15, I decided to come to the U.S. and play for a college."

Chernova said the recruiting process began with a service Russia has that helps athletes find opportunities to play abroad. She made contact with MSU women's tennis head coach Simone Jardim and sent her film from past competitions. Before long, Chernova was a member of the Spartan family.

"I think it's really important to have a good relationship with your coaches," she said. "I'm just really glad I'm at this school and in this tennis program."



Leaving home, along with the culture and language barriers, made the decision hard, but Chernova knows it was worth it in the end.

"I have two little sisters and I think it's been tough for them," she said. "But it is a part of growing up and eventually I would not be living my life with my parents. Sometimes it's really tough to be away from my family but I've learned to think I'm fine and I've gotten a lot more independent than I used to be."

Chernova said she knew English before coming to America but her speaking and reading comprehension needed practice. She took the SAT and an exam designed for international students prior to entering MSU and now speaks English on a daily basis, which she credits for her improvement.

She is a student in the business school studying supply chain management, which was the major she felt suited her best. Multiple media outlets have ranked MSU as No. 1 in its supply chain management education programs.

"It gives me a lot of opportunities because supply chain is such a huge field," she said. "There are a lot of jobs I can pick from."

Coach Jardim noted Chernova handles the pressures that face her as an international student-athlete extremely well.

"Olga has the type of personality where she definitely takes care of business," Jardim said. "She's very disciplined when it comes to tennis and school. She's done extremely well in the classroom."

On the tennis court, Chernova is enjoying her best season in Green and White. Through March 23 she is 19-7 overall and from Feb. 21 through March 21 won seven consecutive singles matches. Her strong showings have upped her career singles record significantly to 45-61.

Her success is part of the reason why the Spartans are 13-4 overall and 10-2 at home this season.

"I think my game definitely improved after I came here," she said. "I got more disciplined on the court and I learned how to be a team player and not an individual."

Chernova credits her strong baseline play as well as her ability to hit cross-court as the best parts of her game, and said she said she feels inspired to hit more powerful shots after she watches Serena Williams play.

With Big Ten play just getting underway, Chernova is looking forward to making more memories in her final season.

"It's really exciting for me and I think I made a really good choice, " she said of coming to MSU. "It's an interesting life and I'm glad I'm a student-athlete."