Nearly 20 years after graduating, Michael Goldfarb still dominates the diving record book at Brandeis University. Appropriately, after attending a school named after former Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, Goldfarb's lifelong dream is to become a judge.
Goldfarb never dropped a dual meet diving event in his four-year career and holds every major diving record at his alma mater. His score of 507.15 in the one-meter dive at the 1999 UAA Swimming and Diving Championships stood for 15 years before Austen Blease of NYU finally eclipsed the mark at the 2014 UAA championship. The three-time All-American and seven-time All-Association diver was inducted into the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
Photos, L: Michael Goldfarb on Brandeis S&D media guide; R: Goldfarb at his Hall of Fame induction
Becoming an All-American diver was not something Goldfarb could have predicted when he entered high school. “We took a unit in gymnastics in ninth grade gym class. There was a world class senior. I watched what he did and that sparked my interest,” he recalled. “Prior to that, I was completely un-athletic and overweight. I never had a passion for a sport before.”
As his interest in gymnastics piqued, Goldfarb achieved physical fitness quickly, but found he didn’t have the aptitude to continue competing in gymnastics in college. “It takes so much strength and I couldn’t develop it quickly enough,” he said. “At the end of my senior year, I started messing around on the diving board.”
One challenge Goldfarb faced in both gymnastics and diving was his height. Standing at six feet tall, he is very tall for both sports. In fact, each of the past five Olympic men’s gold medalists in diving were between 5-feet-6 inches and 5-feet-9 inches tall. “When I competed internationally, I was known as the tallest diver in the world,” he laughed.
Fortunately for Goldfarb, he honed his diving skills quickly and he credits his gymnastics background. “Gymnastics is acrobatics, particularly the events I was better in,” he commented. “It is a very traditional path to diving.”
"I remember recruiting him, listening to him talk about his gymnastics background," said Jim Zotz, who served as the head coach of the Brandeis men's and women's swimming & diving programs from 1978-2010. "I knew what that background meant as previous successful divers on our team had also been gymnasts first. A lot of the training program for diving was based more on gymnastics."
He only looked at attending UAA schools, eventually choosing Brandeis over Emory University and Washington University. He vividly remembered one coach saying he wouldn’t be good enough to make their team, yet he began his UAA career with a runner-up finish on the three-meter board and a third-place finish in the one-meter dive (behind only NYU divers).
Photo: Michael Goldfarb earned seven All-Association honors
After garnering another runner-up finish and two third-place finishes in the next two UAA championships, he cemented his strong career by sweeping both the one- and three-meter titles at the 1999 UAA championships at Emory. His winning performance on the one-meter board not only set the Association record that stood for 15 years, but unseated the defending champion from national powerhouse Johns Hopkins University.
"He took off so quickly," Zotz recalled. "The great thing about him was that he was always a team person. He was not a great swimmer, but he would always jump in a relay to swim when a fourth member of the relay wasn't available. He did everything that was asked of him. His teammates voted him captain."
The year he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, one of the swimmers at the alumni meet asked him if he wanted to keep the records forever. “I have enjoyed having them, but I hope someone breaks them because I want them to have that same enjoyment,” he remarked. “Having them gave me confidence at the time, but I don’t need that anymore.”
Goldfarb returns to Brandeis twice every year, once for the alumni meet in which he still competes, and for the annual a cappella group concert, a group he helped create as an undergraduate. “Thanks to my experience at Brandeis in swimming & diving and singing, I am the only person in my circle of friends who can go back to school and still be recognized by current students,” he stated. “The current swimmers and divers see my records on the board and those who come through the a cappella group are familiar with the history and the founders.”
With his collegiate career nearing an end, Goldfarb did not want his diving career to come to a close as well. In his senior year, he pursued getting his Irish citizenship so he could compete for Ireland. Under Irish law, he was able to gain citizenship based upon the fact that his mother’s father was born in Ireland. “I started diving so late that I hadn’t reached my potential. I wasn’t done diving,” he said.
"He was not ready to finish because he started so late," Zotz stated. "It can be a positive thing when an athlete starts later because they are not burned out by the time they reach the end of their college career. He took advantage of every opportunity he had, both athletically and academically."
In his senior year, Goldfarb captured the Ireland national championship, which qualified him for the Grand Prix series that designates athletes for the Olympics. His first international competition was in May 1999, the same month he graduated, at the Canada Cup in Montreal.
Photo: Michael Goldfarb was a two-time Ireland national champion
After graduation, he began training in Sheffield, England with his teammates and the British national team. The teams competed throughout Europe that summer before Goldfarb moved back to Massachusetts. Back home, he trained at the well-renowned Boston Area Diving program under the tutelage of then Boston College coach Joe Chirico.
He continued training, while working at the same time, and captured a second Ireland national title. One of the highlights of his career was competing in the world championships in Sydney, Australia just months before the 2000 Olympic Games were to be hosted there, diving in the Olympic pool. Soon thereafer, he finished his international career where it started, at the Canada Cup in Montreal.
Photo: Barry McCarthy, Ireland coach George Smith, Michael Goldfarb
“I have competed all over the world and my favorite meet ever to compete in was UAA’s,” he remarked. “There was a shared experience of everyone who was there. They are all at their school to get a great education and love diving. All the divers would hang out together and we appreciated what each other was doing athletically and academically. I made a lot of friends at all the schools.”
"UAA's was such a great environment. There was a great camaraderie," Zotz commented. "A lot of his teammates would be there for his diving."
Once he retired from diving, Goldfarb moved to Los Angeles to work in television and film production. “I did everything you can imagine in a short time,” he said. “Writing, acting, production, assistant, stunt man. I got a couple of gigs because I was a diver. Ultimately, I left that industry. I had always believed that if you worked really hard and had an aptitude for something, you could get ahead. That was not my experience there.”
He moved to New York City and worked in advertising before attending Saint John’s University School of Law. Goldfarb earned his law degree in 2006 and began working for Latham & Watkins, a large, international law firm in Los Angeles and eventually back in New York.
In 2009, he moved to Connecticut to take the next step toward his ultimate career goal, taking a position as a judicial clerk on the Connecticut Supreme Court for a year. He spent the next five years in a law practice at Murtha Cullina, doing complex commercial and government investigations and political work.
In addition, from 2013-2016, Goldfarb served as chief legal counsel to the Connecticut Republican Party, advising on legal matters, including election law and campaign finance.
In 2015, he joined Cigna as counsel to the company’s Special Investigation Unit, focusing on health care fraud. He has also continued his political work, serving as legal counsel and advisor to political candidates.
Zotz is confident that Goldfarb will achieve whatever he sets out to do. "He has always been very confident in an unassuming way," he said. "He is humble, a hard worker, and extremely talented. You have to be confident to be a diver. When you dive, everything stops for you and everyone is watching just you."
Photo: Michael Goldfarb with Florida Senator Marco Rubio
“I was on the Judges and that is where I hope my career ends,” Goldfarb said. “It would give me great joy to give back by providing public service as a judge someday."
"He is a very loyal and solid young man," Zotz concluded. "He is extremely supportive of Brandeis and we are lucky to have had him in our program."