Senior diver Lisa Dughi has always loved the thrill of tumbling through the air.
But the thing is she started out landing on her feet. As a youngster, Dughi developed a passion for gymnastics, but after eight years in the sport, she was permanently sidelined by injury.
Knowing that she could not completely part with the sensation of defying gravity, Dughi decided to pursue diving. She’s been making leaps since she was 13 and she’s gotten so good she nearly qualified for the NCAA tournament this weekend as she closed out her Cornell career.
A date in the finals of the 1-meter diving competition at the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships (a qualifier for the NCAA tournament) marked the culmination of what has been a journey littered with pesky injuries, but overshadowed by gutsy comebacks. The tournament held at the United States Naval Academy was talent-ladden and mightily contested.
“The whole east coast was competing, so it was really a high-pressured meet,” Dughi said.
The veteran rose to the upper echelons of the diving world rapidly. During her high school summers, she trained at the Olympic Coliseum.
“We worked out with the senior national team and the best divers in the world,” Dughi recalled. “It was a great experience.”
With the disappointment of her forced divorce from gymnastics seemingly in the distant past, fate dealt the Human Ecology student yet another ill blow.
“I had a severe back injury in high school and wasn’t able to dive junior year,” she observed.
But the frustration would not end there.
During her freshman year, an ambitious Dughi would have to forego a year and delay showcasing her talents because she needed to undergo surgery.
But what kept Dughi strong was her desire to be in Ithaca. Both of her parents, uncle and grandfather call Cornell their alma matter and the diver was particularly attracted to head coach Rick Gilbert.
With her health finally in check, the New Jersey native reached new heights last weekend. In addition to her standout performance in the 1-meter competition, she claimed a 16th place finish in the 3-meter.
Now with her collegiate diving years beyond her, the senior has her sights set on a career in fashion, specifically one located in New York City.
But after a tumultuous stint as an athlete, she is ready for whatever life may present her.
“I just want to be happy doing whatever I am doing,” she concluded.
Archived article by Gary Schueller