David Boudia and Nick McCrory smiled and chatted during their Olympic diving competition Monday, their lack of nerves perfectly in sync.
“We just joked back and forth,” said McCrory, 20, of Chapel Hill, N.C. “That’s always when we dive our best.
“We do a fist bump before every dive, like ‘Let’s do it.’ That puts us both at ease and prepares us mentally for doing a dive just like we would in practice without the added pressure of, you know, 17,000 people watching.”
And that’s not to mention the millions of people around the world who saw the diving duo win the bronze medal in men’s synchronized 10-meter platform. The medals ended a 16-year-medal drought for the U.S. men in the sport.
Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston, who took silver in women’s synchronized 3-meter springboard on Sunday, had already won the first U.S. diving medal since 2000.
Now it was the men’s turn for a breakthrough at the Aquatics Center. In 10-meter synchronized diving, they had to climb a tower as high as two London double-decker buses stacked end to end, dive off so their flips and twists mirrored each other, and try not to make too big of a splash.
“We’re so excited to be able to dive two days and get two medals out of it,” said Boudia, 23, of Noblesville, Ind., the reigning world silver medalist on platform. “There’s so much more in the tank. Nick and I are now excited to be going individual (Aug. 10-11). We got everything out of the way, now we can go in there with the exact same mind frame -- relaxed -- and stay in control one dive at the time.”
In the 2008 Olympic Games, Boudia placed fifth in the same event with partner Thomas Finchum. This time, he and McCrory had a new perspective that involved “not being so wrapped up in getting this thing right here,” Boudia said, holding up the medal around his neck, but simply in striving for their best performance.
The two divers, who became partners in early 2010, finished with 463.47 points. They trailed Mexican pair Ivan Garcia and German Sanchez, who had the highest difficulty in the six-dive competition, by fewer than six points (468.90). China won its second gold of the Games in diving, with Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan scoring 486.78.
Surprisingly, the Chinese did not lead with three dives down and three to go. That honor belonged to crowd favorites Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain. But the Brits botched their fourth dive, a reverse 3½ somersault, and eventually wound up fourth (454.65).
“It was a really, really pressure-cooker compared to yesterday,” said Steve Foley, the high-performance director for USA Diving. “The British crowd were incredible… the noise. Tom and Pete dive really, really well, and that crowd can make a little bit of difference to the scores. It’s like having the 12th judge with the crowd. Ultimately, they folded a little.”
But Boudia and McCrory also had a dive that could have been better, their third, an inward 3½ somersault. They more than made up for it on their next dive, a forward 4½ somersault (92.13 points), surpassed only by their final dive, a back 2½ somersault with 2½ twists (95.04).
“That was the key; Nick absolutely drilled his,” Foley said. “It kept them in the ballgame, because that was where they could have lost it in one fell swoop.”
McCrory was determined not to repeat the 2011 world championships, when he and Boudia dropped out of medal contention because of a bad fifth dive.
“It’s almost harder to continue hitting dives when another team opens the door, because then you see, ‘Wow, I can medal, I can do this,’” he said. “We had a silver medal in the palm of our hands and I lost sight of the dive that we were on. I was thinking about getting on the podium.
“I made my mistake and I wasn’t going to make it twice.”
Boudia said that when he and McCrory got out of the pool for the last time, they had no idea where they were placed.
“We were back in the locker room, and if the Brits (who dove after the Americans) hit it then they got third,” he said. “If they didn’t, we get third. I actually put on the blue shirt hoping to get the medal instead of the white shirt going home.”
He didn’t have to change, although he said he felt for the Brits and “their dreams getting crushed.”
“But it was a little triumph for Nick and I and a cool win for USA Diving,” Boudia added “The moment was incredible.”
McCrory is now the second Olympic medalist in his family. His uncle, Gordon Downie, who married his mom’s sister, won a bronze medal for Great Britain in 1976 in the 4 x 200-meter relay.
Two summers ago, McCrory asked to see the medal for the first time. “He had to go find it,” he said. “It was somewhere in the closet. He pulled it out and it was really incredible to hold it in my hand."
McCrory didn’t put it around his neck, though. He wanted to wait for his own medal.
Now the wait is over.
Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.