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How A Concussion Led To David Boudia’s Diving Rebirth, This Time On The Springboard

By Alex Abrams | Nov. 20, 2018, 12:01 a.m. (ET)


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David Boudia was feeling sick, worn down and so overwhelmed that he knew it was only a matter of time before he crashed.

So when he did just that, dropping from a platform the height of a three-story building only to slam into the water and become concussed, it wasn’t a total surprise for the three-time Olympic diver.

Yet in an odd way, the crash brought him some much-needed clarity. 

After winning his third and fourth Olympic medals in 2016 in Rio, Boudia had taken a break from the sport to explore what else life had to offer, only to decide in fall 2017 to make a comeback.

However, Boudia soon found he didn’t enjoy being back on the 10-meter platform, where he had won all of his Olympic medals, including the individual gold in 2012. He hated training, and his stress level was “extremely high” as he tried juggling being a husband, a father and a budding real estate entrepreneur.

He was managing 15 clients on top of training full-time.

“All of those together created an explosion, and so I went up on (the) 10-meter (platform) and crashed,” Boudia said. “And that’s when I kind of took a step back and prioritized what’s most important right now.”

Boudia experienced dizziness, blackouts and fatigue following his dive in February that went horribly wrong. He was forced to miss several major competitions this year because of the concussion.

While sidelined, he made some major changes to his life.

“It was kind of a good wakeup call snapping on the water to kind of open up my eyes and (see) what am I doing now that’s going to get me to where I want to be in the future,” he said.

The 29-year-old Boudia decided after talking with his wife, Sonnie, that he had to put some things on hold if he was going to make a serious run at qualifying for his fourth Olympics — the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Boudia also switched events. He has spent the past five months training to dive off the 3-meter springboard, after winning a combined nine Olympic and world medals on the platform, including four in synchronized, dating back to 2007.

Feeling rejuvenated and in the best shape of his career, Boudia returned to competition this past week at the FINA Gold Coast Grand Prix in Southport, Australia, where he finished second on the springboard. It was his first time competing since earning the synchronized silver and individual bronze medals on 10-meter platform at the 2016 Olympics.

“This kind of helps set the road to say I do actually have a very legitimate shot to contend for medals in Tokyo in this event,” Boudia told TeamUSA.org on Thursday, between the semifinals and final at the Gold Coast competition.

After appearing timid in the preliminaries, Boudia admitted he needed several “rough” dives in Southport to “kind of flip that switch in” and finish first in his semifinal group.

He finished the final with 422.05 points, just 7.40 points behind Australia’s Kevin Chavez.

Boudia said several factors went into the decision for him to start diving from 3 meters, which he hadn’t competed in at an elite level internationally since 2014.

Diving off the 10-meter platform takes a toll on an Olympian’s joints. It tends to be an event for younger divers, not a married man with two daughters and a real estate license like Boudia.

More than the physical toll, though, Boudia admitted he would have retired without a doubt had he not switched events.

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David Boudia looks up after diving from an 8-meter cliff at the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series on July 22, 2017 in Polignano a Mare, Italy.


“It was time for a change,” said Boudia, who won three of his six NCAA titles on 3-meter event while competing at Purdue. “I was pretty miserable in training up on platform for the past year and a half, and since making the switch I actually enjoy going to practice. It’s a new challenge, so it makes it a lot more exciting.”

While in Australia, Boudia climbed up the 10-meter platform and looked around the pool. He had an undeniable feeling that “I have no desire whatsoever to dive off this ever again.”

Of course, Boudia has had to adjust to diving off the 3-meter springboard, which is like jumping off a one-story building compared to the greater heights where he made his mark. He has a simple way of explaining the difference.

“Let’s say you drive a sedan your entire life and you step out and you get into a truck, and the feel is just different,” Boudia said. “So you know how to drive, but driving a truck is just different than driving a sedan and so the same on the events."

“The 10-meter is different than the springboard. It just takes time to get the rhythm. It takes experience and competition.”

After his return to competition in Australia, Boudia’s schedule will intensify with the 2018 USA Diving Winter Trials in Atlanta in mid-December. He’ll then train heavily in the hopes of posting a strong showing at the 2019 world championships and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

But why did Boudia not just retire from diving and relax at home with his family and sell real estate? 

“I didn’t want to look down the road watching Tokyo from my couch saying, ‘I could have done that physically. Why did I not try?’” Boudia said. 

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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David Boudia