NewsSteele Johnson

David Boudia Bounces Into Lead In 3-Meter Springboard In Bid For Fourth Olympics

by Karen Rosen

David Boudia dives in the 3-meter springboard semifinals at the Diving U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 9, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. 


INDIANAPOLIS – David Boudia was in a familiar position on the leaderboard at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving.

Only the diving board was different. 

Boudia is in first place after the preliminaries and semifinals on men’s 3-meter springboard Wednesday.

Wait, isn’t he the platform guy? Yes, for three straight Olympic Trials from 2008 through 2016, Boudia dove only from the 10-meter tower. He went on to win four Olympic medals, including a gold at the Olympic Games London 2012.

“I forgot how stressful Olympic trials are,” Boudia said as he drove the 45 minutes home to West Lafayette, Indiana, so he could sleep in his own bed and play with his three kids before Sunday’s final.

The 32-year-old decided to switch to 3-meter in 2018 after his body told him it needed a break from plunging off the equivalent of a 3-story building.

“I think on platform, it’s a lot easier to fake being relaxed,” Boudia said. “You can force it a little bit more off the platform. On springboard, if you’re forcing it then it’s not going to go well. And so it’s a lot more stressful to compete springboard because of that variable of the springboard bouncing beneath you.”

Boudia led after the six-dive preliminary round by 11.45 points and then maintained his lead – although Andrew Capobianco tied him after the third round of the semis – while accumulating 889.70 points. Grayson Campbell, 23, who is seeking his first Olympic team, is in a tight contest for second place. He has 874.20 points, followed by Mike Hixon, a 2016 Olympian, with 873.55 and Tyler Downs with 869.90.

Points are cumulative, with six dives remaining in the final.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 points ahead or 10 points ahead, I don’t think any lead is safe,” said Boudia, who is competing in his first high-pressure situation on springboard since 2019. 

On women’s 10-meter platform, Katrina Young, a 2016 Olympian, regained the lead from synchro partner Murphy Bromberg on the final dive to lead 663.50 to 656.65. Delaney Schnell is in third place (649.75) while her synchro partner, Jessica Parratto, is fourth (640.05).

Laura Wilkinson, the 43-year-old who is competing 21 years after she won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney, is in ninth place. Wearing a stars and stripes swimsuit, Wilkinson scored 540.05 points to make the 12-woman final on Sunday night. This is her first Olympic Trials since 2008 after recovering from neck surgery. 

“I have to remember that being here is kind of a gift in of itself,” Wilkinson said.

Although he was concentrating on platform for so many years, Boudia is no stranger to springboard. He won three of his six NCAA titles on 3-meter for Purdue and was the U.S. national champion in the event in 2013 and 2019.

Before the Trials, Boudia thought that synchronized 3-meter springboard was his best chance for a medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Unfortunately, his partner, Steele Johnson, was forced to pull out Tuesday because of a painful foot injury. They were in third place going into the final, with only one team qualifying for Tokyo.

“He was in excruciating pain and he got the job done,” said Boudia, who won the silver medal in synchronized 10-meter platform with Johnson in Rio. “You would have never known until his last dive that he was in pain.

‘I’m just bummed that he couldn’t see this round out, but I know that he has a good foundation and his head’s on straight and he relies on his faith.”

Boudia had to rearrange his mindset to focus solely on the individual event.

“I didn’t do anything special,” he said. “All I did was land on my head, and I was consistent. I think the biggest thing in these competitions is trying to keep your emotions in balance, and I think I executed that well.”

He said Sunday will be a different story with his rivals “amped and excited,” so he has to sharpen up a bit.

“During the semifinals, I wasn’t satisfied with any of (my dives),” Boudia said. “I can do better on all six.”

He said he felt a little flat but was grateful to be out there at all considering two weeks ago his daughter Dakoda, 6, had to help him out of bed. He had woken up in terrible pain with a bulging disc in his lower back.

“I felt like I was 85 years old,” Boudia said, “but I had a good team around me that got me fixed up just in time.”

Because of his injury, he decided not to increase the degree of difficulty of his list, so it remained the same as it was in 2019 when he was fifth at the world championships.

“I decided we need to not push it,” Boudia said. “We’ll try to stay consistent with the lower degree of difficulty and if we get ourselves on this team, then we’ll re-evaluate and see if we can add the 109C (forward 4 ½ somersault tuck with a degree of difficulty of 3.8) in time for the Olympics.”

After all, he knows it all can slip away so quickly. Boudia led Capobianco, the 2018 national champ, by 16.5 points after two rounds in the semis. Then Capobianco pulled into a tie with Boudia in the third round by scoring 91.00 points – all 8.5s to 9.0s -- on a reverse 3 ½ somersaults from the tuck position.

But Capobianco completely missed his fourth dive, a back 3 1/2 somersaults from the tuck position, landing on his back and scoring mostly 2.0s for a total of 21.60 points.

“I think if Andrew can figure out a back (takeoff), then he will be an unstoppable force,” Boudia said, “whether that’s this Olympics or the next quadrennium, he could be a very dangerous diver for Team USA.”

But for the next two days, Boudia doesn’t even have to think about any of that. 

“It’s nice to have that balance and see the kiddos and my wife and not be an elite diver for two days at least,” he said.  

While his wife Sonnie and other family members were at the Indiana University Natatorium on Wednesday, Boudia’s kids were watching on television at home.

“My daughter’s always concerned if I won or lost,” Boudia said. “I’ll probably wake them up (when I get home) and get some kisses and I’m sure that’s the first thing she’ll ask.”

For now, at least, the answer is yes.

Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to since 2009.
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