Tyler Downs celebrates qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in the men's 3-meter springboard at U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Diving on June 13, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
INDIANAPOLIS – Tyler Downs was wearing a Team USA Olympic ring on his right hand as he wiped away tears of joy Sunday night.
The ring belonged to David Boudia. It’s a tradition for divers from previous U.S. Olympic teams to give their rings to new Olympians, who return it once they get their own.
The 17-year-old Downs said Boudia’s synchro partner, Steele Johnson, actually presented him with the ring on the pool deck “because David was still doing his last dive.”
That did not bode well for Boudia. While Downs won the men’s 3-meter springboard event on the final day of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving, Boudia shockingly missed his bid for his fourth straight Olympic team.
The 32-year-old father of three, who has won four Olympic medals on 10-meter platform, including the gold in the individual event at the Olympic Games London 2012, finished 4.45 points behind Andrew Capobianco, who climbed from sixth place to nab the other berth. Capobianco had previously qualified for Team USA in synchronized 3-meter springboard with Mike Hixon, a 2016 Olympian in individual 3-meter who briefly pulled into second place but wound up fourth.
Downs totaled 1,3375.75 points, followed by Capobianco at 1,319.40 and Boudia at 1,314.95.
“I came in with no expectations,” Downs said, “just to have fun, dove my best and ended up on the Olympic team.”
On women’s 10-meter platform, Delaney Schnell came into the final in third place and demonstrated consistency to compile 1,021.90 points and qualify for Tokyo in her second event. She will also dive in synchronized 10-meter platform with Jessica Parratto.
Katrina Young was the runner-up (984.70 point) to make her second straight Olympic team. Young was in third place and leap-frogged her synchro partner, Murphy Bromberg, by 2.95 points. Bromberg, who lost the lead on a subpar final dive from the tower, had the heartbreaking distinction of finishing one place off the Olympic team for the fourth time (twice in 2016 and twice at these Trials).
At age 43, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson finished an impressive 10th with 804.30 points.
Boudia led after the preliminaries and semifinals, with each session consisting of six dives. Scores were cumulative. After making Team USA on platform three times, in 2018 he switched to springboard, which was less wear-and-tear on his body.
After three rounds in the final, Boudia held a 22.35-point cushion over third place. But he then had a rare miss on his fourth dive, an inward 3 ½ somersault tuck. Scoring only 40.80 points – including one judge giving him a 2.5 - he dropped to third place.
Boudia subsequently plunged into fifth going into the sixth and final round with only 6.75 points separating second place from fifth.
Downs, the youngest member of the USA Diving contingent bound for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, was assured of finishing in the top two even before Boudia performed the final dive of the competition.
Capobianco, who was in second place, scored 81.70 points on his last dive to lead Boudia by 88.45.
Boudia had been here before. At the 2012 Olympics, he pulled into first place on his last dive. This time, he succeeded in scoring more points than any other diver in the round with his reverse 1 ½ somersaults with 3 ½ twists. But it was not enough. He scored 8.0s when he needed 8.5s to end up with 84 points.
Boudia admitted that this wasn’t his best competition “by far,” but he took it in stride.
“I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a defeat like this so happy ever in my career,” Boudia said. “it normally takes you a couple of hours, a couple of days.”
He praised Capobianco for nailing his new dive, a back dive he missed so badly in the semifinals. Capobianco, who has been bothered by a back injury, had the most difficult list in the competition.
Boudia also said he believed “everyone in this building had a tear for (Downs). He has an exciting future and I’m super proud of him.”
Downs, who has more than 500,000 followers on TikTok, on which he used to post dancing and diving videos, came into the finals in fourth place. He was also fresh off a fifth-place finish in men’s 10-meter platform the previous night. He quickly moved into second place, only 14.25 points behind Boudia, but then fell to fourth. After Downs grabbed the lead following Boudia’s flub, he withstood the pressure by scoring four 9.0s on a reverse 3 ½ somersault tuck.
“I was so scared for that,” Downs said. “My coach told me just to relax a little bit. I know how to do that dive. I took off the board and I had a really good connection. In the semis, I was lower in the air than I was in finals so I had to figure out where I was in the air.”
He landed solidly in first.
Schnell was the 2019 world championships bronze medalist in women’s platform after placing 27th at worlds two years earlier.
“The one thing I was always lacking was the confidence,” she said. “I always knew that I had it in me. And I think being able to go in and perform at a world championships really brought a lot of confidence to my diving and I think that was a huge turning point for me.”
Schnell’s medal at worlds was the first in platform since Wilkinson won the gold back in 2005.
As she mingled with family and friends after the Trials, Wilkinson said that if she sees Boudia, “I’m going to tell him he should keep going.” Then the mother of four joked, “Maybe we could do mixed synchro. Maybe I could talk him into that. But I’ve got to figure out if I’m still going.”
Wilkinson said she never thought she would dive again after 2008. “I didn’t dive the way I wanted to, but it was a blast,” she said. “Just getting to be up there again … it just fills me up.”