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David Boudia Makes A Splash On Reality TV

By Brandon Penny | April 17, 2013, 3 p.m. (ET)

David Boudia and Steve Foley serve as judges on ABC's Splash.

David Boudia is learning what it feels like to be a household name. Last summer, he became the first U.S. man to earn Olympic 10-meter platform gold since Greg Louganis did so in 1984 and ‘88. Fast forward nine months and Boudia and Louganis are co-headlining a celebrity diving television show, Splash.

Splash, which airs Tuesday nights on ABC, features 10 celebrities — varying from NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabar to comedian Louie Anderson — learning how to dive and competing in individual and synchronized dives. Boudia and USA Diving High Performance Director Steve Foley serve as judges on the show, while Louganis, a four-time gold medalist, is the celebrity coach.

In addition to his role as a judge on Splash, Boudia is back in the pool training, finishing his final year of college at Purdue University and getting accustomed to life as a newlywed. Boudia recently spoke to TeamUSA.org about which celebrities have impressed him the most, changing things up in his return to competition and much more.

How has Splash been received so far?

It’s definitely had a lot of success and it’s also had a lot of critics critique it harshly. What I think is cool is that Splash is maintaining its numbers and people are still watching it. What’s encouraging is they’re watching it more in the second half-hour, which is normally when shows drop. The show is definitely a lot different than what I thought it was going to be like. It’s really encouraging to see celebrities putting themselves out there, being vulnerable, in a swimsuit in front of all of the United States, trying to do a sport that they’ve never even heard of before. It’s awesome to have diving put its name out there like that.

Celebrity diving shows are new to the U.S. Why do you think they’re becoming so popular?

The guy who pitched Splash has been trying for five years to get companies all over the world to accept this show. They accepted it first in the Netherlands and now it’s just an explosion. Pretty much every major country across the world has a show formatted like Splash. I guess people like to see their celebrities smack on the water.

How do you feel Greg Louganis is doing as a coach?

Definitely Greg is doing a great job. There’s more than Greg coaching. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes coaches that work with the celebrities every day. They moved out there from where they used to live to help train these celebrities. They haven’t gotten a lot of notoriety, but they’ve been working extremely hard with the celebrities to get them where they are.

(L-R) Keshia Knight Pulliam, Rory Bushfield, Nicole Eggert, Greg 
Louganis, Ndamukong Suh, Chuy Bravo, Drake Bell, Kareem
Abdul-Jabar, Katherine Webb, Kendra Wilkinson

I understand fellow 2012 U.S. Olympian Cassidy Krug is also part of the show. What is her role?

She’s called a “celebrity trainer,” and they have two celebrity athletes each, so there’s four coaches. They take them under their wings and Greg instructs them and (the celebrity trainers) do the development to get to that point. I know she’s done a lot of demonstrations on ‘this is what dive you’re doing’ and ‘this is what it’s supposed to look like.’

Which celebrity has surprised you the most so far?

To be honest, every single one of the celebrities towards the back half has surprised me. Kareem seems to sneak by and so does Louie. They seem to bypass everybody who doesn’t remember they’re actually there. For Louie to get out there and do what he’s actually done is leaps and bounds above what everyone else is doing comparatively. Louie has definitely surprised me. (Actor) Drake (Bell) and his work ethic has surprised me. (U.S. soccer player and three-time Olympian) Brandi Chastain, as a newcomer, has surprised me. She’s very athletic so I’m glad that she’s on the show now.

What did you think when you found out Brandi would be added to the show (after comedian Chuy Bravo was injured)?

For an Olympic athlete, having someone like Brandi is great. I remember watching the ’99 World Cup and watching her. I was star struck when I saw her on the show.

What was your take on TV personality Kendra Wilkinson, who was unable to complete her dive in the third episode and was automatically eliminated?

I definitely give her props for being vulnerable and trying to face a fear (of heights) on television. I don’t praise someone who’s quitting, so I definitely don’t praise that. She put herself out there and that’s difficult to do. I would have liked to see her give better of an effort.

Olympic champions David Boudia and Greg Louganis perform a 
synchronized dive off the 10-meter platform on ABC's Splash

On the other hand, you have extreme skier Rory Bushfield, who continued to dive after rupturing his eardrum.

Rory definitely is a true athlete. I think it’d be really difficult for someone who hasn’t done sports like that — acrobatic sports that have a fear of hitting the water that high — to get back up after having a ruptured eardrum and continue with the competition. You definitely know that he’s mentally tough just from his past and his skiing. You can definitely tell that transfers into the pool.

Kareem is 7-foot-2, which is well over a foot taller than most divers. Has he been able to manage his height and still succeed at diving?

I think Kareem has surprised both Steve and I and everyone else who has watched the show. It’d be like me trying to go play basketball in the NCAAs. I’m 5-9 and everyone else is towering over me, so it’s like me getting dominated by the other players on the court. His height transferred over to the pool does not give him an advantage at all. He has 7-1 of body trying to maneuver through the air, while I have 5-9, which makes it way easier.

What are you and Steve looking for when you judge?

It varies week to week. We have a curriculum that we have to follow and if we see something, we can base it just off that. We can base it off technique, as far as how well the kickoff was, or how aesthetically pleasing it looked in the air, or how the entry it was, or how graceful it looked, how much fear they overcame. There’s a lot and it’s very difficult. Steve and I are still trying to develop and try to understand how to judge it best because there’s no way you can judge these celebrities how you would the Olympic Games. I think that’s something people don’t understand. If we did judge them based off real diving, there would be far lower scores than what they have now.

You have a lot going on outside of Splash. You and your wife Sonnie have been married for about six months now. How is married life treating you?

It’s extremely difficult and extremely amazing at the same time. I think anyone who is married will understand that. In your relationship, it takes work. I’m thankful every day for Sonnie, as well as for the times that are challenging and the times that are exciting and joyful.

Your first competition since London is coming up at the FINA Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in May. Do you feel any pressure going into this?

It’s just like any other competition. I don’t have any expectations. I don’t expect to go in there and win the whole thing, but I also don’t expect to go in there and lose. I’m diving how I want to dive right now and I’m going to do exactly what I did in London and just focus on those dives that I’m doing and not what everyone else is.

Do you have any goals for this year?

I’m trying a new event out. Kristian (Ipsen) and I are trying synchronized 3-meter. I’ll be going down off the platform and competing on the springboard with him. We hope to compete at World Championships this summer in Barcelona, and also to compete individually in 10-meter. It’s a little different of a year; it’s a very off year. Typically I’ll compete maybe 15 or 16 times a year. I’m competing three times this year.

Why did you decide to try 3-meter this year?

Part of it was because Nick McCrory (Boudia’s 10-meter synchro partner in London) is not competing internationally this year. Kristian has the experience now and 3-meter was always something I wanted to do, but I was focused on platform so I didn’t have time. We’ll see what the next quadrennium looks like as far as which events I’ll do.

How much are you thinking about the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?

Four years is a long way — or maybe three now. I’m going to take it one year at a time and reevaluate it along the way, but definitely the goal is to train for Rio. It’s exciting because I’m training with a 16-year-old (Steele Johnson) now who has a fire underneath him that definitely encourages me to push harder every day. I’m glad to have a young buck training with me.

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David Boudia