Meet Team USA David Boudia and Steele Johnson

By Frank Gogola | July 20, 2016, 2:28 p.m. (ET)

Starting in 2005, David Boudia drove Steele ­Johnson with him to diving practices at the IU Natatorium on the IUPUI campus. Boudia, then 16, was practicing for a potential Olympic berth. Johnson was 10 and would tag along to learn from Boudia and practice for an Olympic trip more than a decade in the future.

The two divers made the journey to Indianapolis together from 2005 to 2008, ending with Boudia earning his spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Johnson saw Boudia’s name added to the historic wall alongside divers he looked up to, like Greg Louganis, Mark Lenzi, Patrick Jeffrey and Thomas Finchum.

Eight years later, Johnson got his name painted on the wall as he captured his first Olympic berth alongside friend and three-time Olympian Boudia in the same pool where they learned to dive. They won the men’s synchronized 10-meter platform at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 23, finishing 238.02 points ahead of Ryan Hawkins and Toby Stanley.

“I’ve dreamed about this day for so long, and the fact that now that it’s here, it’s official. I never thought it would be real so it’s like, it’s crazy,” Johnson said. “And I get to be a part of it alongside the person I grew up idolizing. He is just such an awesome influence on me. It’s crazy that we’re in this situation and cooler than I ever thought it would be.”

Boudia, 27, and Johnson, 20, have known each other for a long time, but they didn’t start diving together as a synchronized team until 2014. Boudia won a bronze medal in men’s synchronized 10-meter platform with Nick McCrory at the 2012 Olympics. He finished fifth with Thomas Finchum at the 2008 Games.

“It’s hard to put it into words, but I can say that out of the three Olympics that I’ve made, I think this one is probably the most emotional,” Boudia said. “I barely got choked up winning the Olympic gold, and I think this moment is so much more special because I get to share it with Steele. It’s been a long four years and a hard four years.”

While working their way to the Olympics, they’ve practiced at Purdue. And it’s no wonder why. Johnson, diving since 7, is a Purdue sophomore and a 2015 NCAA champion on 1-meter and platform. Boudia, a diver since 11, graduated from Purdue in 2013 and is a six-time NCAA champion and two-time NCAA Diver of the Year.

As Boudia says, he and Johnson, the longtime friends who grew up together, feed off of each other’s energy: “I will say with confidence that I would not be able to do what I’ve done without Steele training alongside me, pushing me. The kid is good. And I don’t want him to beat me. He pushes me at practice every single day. That’s what I like about him. More importantly, I like what his character is about and who he is as a man.”

The duo finished first at the 2014 World Cup Synchronized Trials, the 2015 USA Diving Synchronized National Championships and the 2015 USA Diving Winter National Championships. Internationally, the highest they’ve finished was second at the 2015 Diving World Series in Canada.

This round of qualifying was different for Boudia – and not just because of his pairing with Johnson. Boudia got married to Sonnie Brand two months after the 2012 Olympics, and they welcomed their first child, Dakoda, in September 2014.

After Boudia and Johnson made their final dive, they climbed atop the judges’ stand and embraced their families. Boudia hugged his wife and held his daughter, waving for the camera. Johnson hugged his parents, who were surrounded by some of the immediate and distant family and high school and college friends who attended.

The Olympic dream of 2005 finally became a reality. It was, as Johnson said, 12 years of emotions coming out at once.

“I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to make my first Olympic team in any other city,” Johnson said. “There’s something about this city and the people in it and the fact that I’m from here that just makes it 50 times more special than it would have been anywhere else.”