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Diver David Boudia hoping for chance to end U.S. medal drought

The U.S. hasn't won a medal in Olympic diving since 2000. Boudia, who won a silver at the world championships in 2011, will compete in the U.S. trials this week for an opportunity to go to London.

June 18, 2012|By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
  • David Boudia finished 10th in the platform in Beijing in 2008.
David Boudia finished 10th in the platform in Beijing in 2008. (Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images )

It hasn't always come easily to platform diver David Boudia, climbing up 33 feet into the air, bending over and doing a few twists before hitting the water at 35 mph.

"David had a tremendous fear of the tower," his father, Jim Boudia, said. "So many practices we'd go to, it would take him 20 minutes to talk up. At one point we made a silhouette, a model that could move like his dive and that took his mind off the fear element."

Boudia, 23, from Noblesville, Ind., has gotten over his fear quite well.

In 2011 he won a silver medal at the world championships, an upset in the diving world, where it has become common for the Chinese divers to take all the medals.

For his efforts, Boudia became well-known at his university, Purdue, where, his coach, Adam Soldati, said, "The football players were patting him on the back. It was pretty cool."

Now, Boudia is getting plenty of attention. Is he the American who will break the Olympic drought? The U.S. hasn't won an Olympic diving medal of any color since Laura Wilkinson stunned the diving world by winning gold off the platform in Australia 12 years ago.

"It would be huge for U.S. diving," Boudia said, if he could replicate or do better than what he did at worlds in Shanghai last year. And Boudia doesn't see any reason why he shouldn't.

"My dive lists have as much difficulty as the Chinese," Boudia said. "What it comes down to is execution. Whoever executes in London, that's who is going to win."

Boudia, who finished 10th in the platform in Beijing in 2008, said looking back that he and the team had the wrong focus. "We were all trying to banish that statistic. We were trying to get people to stop saying the U.S. hadn't won an Olympic medal since 2000. We were capable, but we didn't do it.

"My silver last year, that was a huge plus. It's an intimidation factor now. U.S. divers are being looked at differently by international judges."

Jim Boudia said his son became a diver in the way that many in the U.S. do.

"He was doing flips off the furniture," Jim said, "so we put him in gymnastics. He excelled, but he had an accident and broke a growth plate in his foot and then started getting burned out on gymnastics. A friend won a ticket to take a diving lesson from a national team coach and David took it. The coach, John Wingfield, saw how acrobatic David was and was thrilled."

As uplifting as Boudia's silver medal was last year, the hard math was that the Chinese won every gold medal available at a world championship for the first time in history and there is nothing to indicate they won't do the same in London.

Greg Louganis, America's best-ever diver, with four career Olympic gold medals plus a silver, watched Boudia last summer at UCLA.

"He's got all the tools," Louganis said, "and now he's acquired some belief. That's a big component in a dive list. Belief. So let's wait and see."

Before he can go to London, Boudia must qualify at the U.S. Olympic trials at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center near Seattle this week.

The top two finishers in the four individual events and the top team in three synchronized events go to London. The U.S. didn't earn an Olympic spot in women's 10-meter synchro.

Boudia is paired with Nick McCrory in synchro. McCrory beat him last summer at those nationals at UCLA.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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