The 12 in ’12 series celebrates the fact that the London 2012 Olympic Games are just two years away. The series previews 12 athletes who have proven themselves as true competitors in past Games and look to win medals for Team USA in London. The seventh part of the series features diver from Beijing, David Boudia.
Pan American Games gold medal. FINA World Championship silver medal. FINA Diving World Cup bronze medal.
As a teenager, diver David Boudia earned himself countless international medals. Leading up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, he won gold at the 2007 Pan American Games and bronze at the 2007 FINA World Championships in 10-meter platform synchro with Thomas Finchum, and bronze at the FINA Diving World Cup in 10m platform. When it mattered most, Boudia fell short of earning a medal in Beijing. Now that he has that Olympic experience under his belt, he says he is ready for London, where he hopes to do what he knows he is capable of: win a medal.
David Boudia was born in 1989 in Abilene, Texas, but grew up in Noblesville, Ind. When he was 5 years old, he started doing gymnastics.
Two years later, Boudia watched the “Magnificent Seven” win women’s gymnastics team competition gold at the Atlanta 1996 Games and was filled with Olympic dreams of his own.
When he was 11, Boudia won free diving lessons from John Wingfield, head coach of Regional Training Center [now USA Diving National Training Center] in Indianapolis.
“Acrobatically they’re pretty much the same,” Boudia said. “I was really progressive because of the gymnastics.”
He fell in love with the sport and soon abandoned gymnastics. His Olympic dreams remained alive, but shifted to a different sport.
“He was naturally talented from the beginning,” Wingfield said, adding there were some areas that needed work, particularly with pointing his feet.
Another issue that Wingfield and Boudia needed to work through was Boudia’s fear of heights. Wingfield wanted to start him out on 10m platform - practically a 33’ high diving board - rather than 3m springboard.
“I generally go platform first because at the younger ages they can’t really bend the springboard well,” Wingfield said. “All of the skills on platform are transferable to springboard and not the other way around.”
With Wingfield’s help, Boudia overcame his fear of heights and excelled at platform. He said even with a decade worth of experience, the mental aspect of the sport is still most challenging today.
“Your mind can get in the way of so many different things,” Boudia said. “When you really overcome the mental aspect of the sport, then you can really accomplish a lot.”
Boudia was named to the National Team in 2005. That year, he and synchro partner Finchum won at the Speedo National Diving Championships. The following season, they won at the Speedo U.S. Open and Kaiser Permanente National Diving Championships.
Fulfilling a Dream
The 2007 season was crucial for Boudia to prove himself internationally in order to go into the Beijing Games with the ability to medal.
He, and partner Finchum, were able to do that and more. Not only did they medal in eight international events that season, but they won gold at the Pan American Games and AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix. Individually, his best results that season were two fifth place finishes at the FINA Grand Prix Canada Cup and FINA Italian Grand Prix.
“It’s definitely a big confidence booster when you go into a competition and you have success and you know that it’s possible to reach your goal from those victories,” Boudia said.
In 2008, Boudia hit his stride individually with silver at the FINA Diving World Series in Tijuana and bronze at the FINA Diving World Cup in Beijing.
He was also the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials champion on platform and was immediately named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, where he joined one of his idols, Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson, among others.
“It’s awesome to have someone like Laura on the team,” Boudia said. “She’s been through it and she knows what it takes to get to that elite level, so just the encouragement that she gives is awesome.”
Boudia was finally fulfilling his Olympic dreams – twelve years after being inspired by the “Magnificent Seven.” And this time it would be Boudia who was making Olympic memories of his own; perhaps the greatest of which was the Opening Ceremony.
“We were among so many elite athletes,” Boudia said. “And then to walk into the Bird's Nest with millions of people and you know that you’re representing your country, it’s an honor.
“I was ecstatic to be on the team and be able to experience that, at that age,” Boudia said. “We were definitely striving for a medal, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Unfortunately, Boudia fell short and finished tenth individually.
“Coming off the World Cup that year, which was about six months before the Beijing Olympic Games, he won a bronze medal,” Wingfield said. “So it was hopeful that he would medal individually.”
Boudia and Finchum had more success together in synchro than either did individually, but they still weren’t able to medal. They finished in fifth place, less than five points away from the bronze – a close margin in diving.
“It was tough because they had medaled internationally fourteen or fifteen times, pretty much every meet they went to they would bring back either bronze or silver,” Wingfield said. “It’s bittersweet. But for the first time they were in the Olympic Games together, I felt they handled the experience quite well, especially for teenagers.”
New School, Same Dream
Just days after returning home from the 2008 Games, Boudia packed up his life and moved to Purdue University for college. At Purdue, he continued to compete nationally and internationally but added the NCAA circuit to his plate.
In 2009, he showed how well he could bounce back from the mistakes in Beijing and set the bar even higher for himself and other U.S. divers.
He came in sixth place at the FINA World Championships in Rome. That was the best finish by an American in platform since 1998. The powerful Boudia/Finchum combo continued to succeed as well. They won the AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix and earned silver at the FINA World Championships.
Because he is competing collegiately, Boudia returned to his roots of 3m springboard (in addition to 10m platform), where he found most of his improvement post-Beijing.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s certainly improved on springboard,” Wingfield said. “Maybe his front 4 ½ [tuck, on platform] has gotten a little better too.”
Boudia’s front 4 ½ had the highest degree of difficulty at the 2008 Games. Wingfield had Boudia dive a 3 ½ pike in the preliminary and semifinal rounds in Beijing, but pulled out the front 4 ½ when it mattered most in the final. He didn’t get the score he hoped for, but Wingfield said his technique has improved in the past two years and they hope it will continue to do so until London.
“The good thing is he has Olympic experience with that dive,” Wingfield said. “That really sets him up for next Games too.”
FINA recently raised the degree of difficulty on that dive, which will be perfect for Boudia should he make the 2012 Games.
He recently used the dive to his advantage when he was chosen as one of five international divers to compete at the China All-Star Diving Series this past December. Boudia medaled at both events in the series.
“His front 4 ½ tuck was one of his premier dives there,” Wingfield said. “He got about 106 or 107 for it, which was phenomenal. It was awesome.”
Boudia started off the 2010 season with an impressive second place finish at the FINA Diving World Series in Veracruz. He is competing the same dives that he performed in Beijing and his main focus over the next two years will be consistency. Wingfield and Boudia both know that he is capable of medaling internationally as long as he dives to the best of his ability when it matters.
“London is definitely on my mind and I’m looking forward to competing like I know how,” Boudia said. “I don’t want to go into competition and make it a huge deal, because I’ve been competing against the same guys. Definitely the main goal is to compete with consistency, and if I do that I think you can achieve high goals.”
Complete 12 in '12 Series: