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MIT Better World

Doria Holbrook became a national diving champ — a first in MIT history.


By Liz Karagianis

“Competing in the Olympics would be amazing. There’s no greater honor than to represent your country doing something you’re exceptional at,” says Holbrook, who is the first MIT diver ever to win the NCAA Division III women’s swimming and diving championship.

She began diving at 14 just for fun, but it wasn’t until last year at 19 that she got serious about it. After just six months, she flew to Holland, Michigan, for the national meet, where she placed first in the three-meter springboard competition and won the bronze medal in the one-meter springboard competition. There, with 600 people cheering, applauding, and whistling, the 20-year-old junior was also named Diver of the Year.

“Doria is a gifted athlete. She’s extremely brave and doesn’t mind taking risks,” says Brad Snodgrass, her MIT coach. “She has exceptional talents and an even greater drive for success.

“Doria works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen,” he adds. “Making the Olympics is a Herculean feat, but I really think she can do it.”


Growing up in Yakima, Washington, the daughter of a dentist and a dental technician, at three, Holbrook loved climbing and twisting her body upside down on monkey bars. For the next 10 years, she did gymnastics, and spent so much time upside down, it now feels natural, she says, adding: “Gymnastics really helped me a lot as a diver.”

Later, Holbrook became a champion pole vaulter — one of the top 15 high school women in the country. She actually held the national record for a day and a half for jumping 12-and-a-half feet. But Holbrook so over-trained for the sport that the bones in her foot began to degenerate, so she switched to diving.

Over the years, she has won hundreds of awards. “I have so many medals, ribbons, plaques, and trophies,” she says, “I don’t know what to do with them.”

Her biggest fear in life, she says, is failure. “I fight it every day,” says Holbrook, who is now training for the U.S. National Championship — a prerequisite for the Olympics. “Logically, I know there’s so much to learn whether you win or lose, so that there’s never really a failure at all, but it’s really hard for me to be OK with second place.”


Not only is Holbrook a great athlete, but she’s also a great student with a 4.8 grade point average. “Academics is my number one priority, and it always will be. I’ll always be a diver, but someday I am going to have to be financially stable and support myself. I figure that the best way to do that is through academics.”

Holbrook, a mechanical engineering major, says, “I’m really interested in biomedical devices and emerging technologies,” adding that she hopes one day to become the CEO of a big corporation, one that designs medical devices, from heart implants to prosthetics.

“I’m really passionate about helping and leading others,” she says. “I feel the best way to lead is by serving other people. I really want to help others grow, develop their talents, and follow their dreams.”

Speaking of dreams, often, she says, her coach gives her videotapes of Olympic divers to study. “The U.S. only takes two women and is one of the best diving programs in the whole world,” she says, “but watching those tapes, I just know that I can do it.”