From Yambol to Columbia: The journey of Georgi Nachev

Nachev has endured the difficulties of moving to a different nation, and he now gears up for the end of his illustrious career.

The journey from Yambol, Bulgaria to Columbia is 5,627 miles. Georgi Nachev made the gutsy decision to leave the country he called home and start fresh in the U.S. as a college student to pursue his dreams of becoming a track and field star.

Nachev grew up in Yambol, a medium-sized town in southeast Bulgaria surrounded by beautiful nature and deep-rooted history. At home, the track was always calling to him, but the facilities and coaches could not keep up with his talent. He competed in both the under 18 and 20-year-old European championships for his home nation, but bigger things were on the way.

Those competitions are where Missouri assistant track and field coach Iliyan Chamov spotted Nachev’s talents. Chamov hails from Yambol as well and began to recruit Nachev when the prodigal track star was 17 years old. At the U20 championships in Italy, Chamov pitched Nachev on Mizzou, and the rest is history.

“I wasn’t in the best environment with facilities and equipment over there, and coach Chamov was very nice in his communication with me,” Nachev said.

So, Nachev hopped on a flight to the opposite hemisphere to compete for Missouri. The culture change in coming from Bulgaria to the midwestern U.S. was stark to say the least.

“The language barrier was the biggest struggle for me,” Nachev said. “Early interactions featured me translating what someone said into Bulgarian and then translating my response into English. It took me two to three months to start thinking in English and speak without thinking too much.”

The language barrier challenged him, but perhaps an even more concerning issue arose upon arrival in the U.S.

“The Bulgarian cuisine is what I miss the most,” Nachev said. “I had stomach problems for a while because all the food is processed over here. Everything in Bulgaria is farm-grown and organic, so the food over here is very different and hard to adjust to.”

However, Nachev also cited many positives in his decision to come to the states, both on the track and off.

“The facilities and environment at Mizzou are great compared to what I used to have,” Nachev said. “People are always pushing me to the max to become great, and meeting so many people from different cultures on the team really helped.”

The diversity of the men’s track and field team is something to behold, with nine athletes hailing from outside of the U.S. This includes a fellow Bulgarian, junior Martin Prodanov, who is from the larger city of Plovdiv.

In terms of track and field work, Nachev said training is far more intense at Missouri. American coaches place more emphasis on weight and speed training, and twice-a-day practices have been a new challenge.

The bold move paid off for Nachev, however, as he has enjoyed a standout career for the Tigers. The junior competes in a variety of events but specializes in the triple jump, and he has five first-place finishes in the event throughout his career.

On top of his accomplishments on the track, Nachev excels in the classroom. He was a member of the 2020 Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll and is pursuing a major in electrical engineering.

As Nachev enters the latter stages of his college career, he aims to compete on a professional level.

“I was injured during the COVID-19 cancelation last spring, and the quarantine period gave me more time to get back to normal,” Nachev said. “Lockdown was tough, only being able to practice on my own, but I got back to normal activities in August.”

Following a stellar 2021 indoor campaign, Nachev qualified for the D1 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas on March 11-13. As with everything, Nachev has defined goals laid out for this meet.

“Jump 54 feet or above, finish in the top eight, but most importantly, go out and have fun,” Nachev said.

Georgi Nachev’s journey has been a long one full of difficult decisions and adjusting to a completely foreign nation. Thanks to a great supporting cast around him and an improvement in available resources, Nachev has become one of the stars of Missouri track and field, and a bright future awaits the kid from Yambol.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell |

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