David Boudia

David Boudia, Troy Dumais lead U.S. into world diving championships; preview

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The world diving championships kick off Saturday at one of the great scenic venues in all of sports, the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc in Barcelona, Spain.

You may remember the outdoor pool with a breathtaking view of the Catalan capital from the 1992 Olympics, where the late American Mark Lenzi won on the springboard and China’s Fu Mingxia prevailed on the platform, the first of her record-tying four individual Olympic diving golds.

Or the 2003 world championships, where recently retired Canadian Alex Despatie nailed one of the greatest dives in major championship history, his patented twister (backward 2 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists from the pike position) with a whopping 3.8 difficulty, for 107.16 points (9s and 10s) in the final round to win.

You may also recall it from a Kylie Minogue music video.

Here’s a refresher and a primer for the first major international meet since the 2012 Olympics:

What happened in London: China dominated but again fell short of sweeping, taking six of eight events.

One of those two non-China golds came in the marquee diving event of the Games, the men’s platform on the next to last day of competition. American David Boudia upset a defeaning crowd inside the London Aquatics Centre by defeating Great Britain’s Tom Daley (in addition to world champion and favorite Qiu Bo.)

USA Diving won four medals in London, its first medals since Laura Wilkinson‘s comeback gold at the 2000 Olympics.

The other three podiums came in synchro events — Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen (bronze) and Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston (silver) on the springboard and Boudia and Nick McCrory on the platform (bronze).

What’s happened since London: Start with Boudia, 24, who took time off to get married and appear as a judge on a celebrity diving TV show.

He returned to competition in May, taking silver at the USA Diving Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., behind a Chinese diver who did not compete individually at the Olympics.

Boudia then easily won trials a week later and notably nearly qualified the synchronized 3-meter springboard.

Boudia is tempering expectations given the layoff but said he will perform the same dives as he did in London.

What could be different from 2012 is the competition. Daley, he of the 2.4 million Twitter followers, was listed as doubtful due to a glandular problem by the BBC earlier this week. However, he’s in Barcelona and practicing but, like Boudia, will not compete in synchro.

Qiu, who cited an illness as a reason for settling for silver in London, is back boasting a new, higher difficulty dive. The 20-year-old leads a Chinese team hoping to sweep all 10 events as it did in 2011.

Dumais and Ipsen are the only other Olympic medalists on the 15-diver U.S. roster, but they are no longer synchro partners.

They parted mutually given Dumais, 33, isn’t yet committed to another full Olympic cycle and Ipsen, 20, is a rising junior at Stanford, 1,700 miles away from Dumais’ training base in Austin, Texas.

“I haven’t closed the door,” said Dumais, a four-time Olympian and five-time world championship medalist looking for his first worlds gold. “Hopefully he hasn’t closed the door.”

Dumais qualified for the synchro springboard with a new, even younger partner, incoming Texas freshman Michael Hixon.

Ipsen swept the trials one- and three-meter springboard events after doubling up at NCAAs in March.

None of the eight U.S. women’s divers have any worlds or Olympic experience, but keep on eye on Samantha Pickens, who won the NCAA one-meter springboard title for Arizona and then took the same event at trials, and Amy Cozad, who made the worlds team on the platform after finishing third at last year’s Olympic trials, where only the top two advanced to London.

Schedule: Universal Sports will have coverage beginning with Saturday’s synchro events.

Finals
Saturday: Women’s synchro springboard (11:30 a.m. ET)
Sunday: Men’s synchro platform (11:30 a.m.)
Monday: Men’s one-meter springboard (8 a.m.), women’s synchro platform (11:30)
Tuesday: Women’s one-meter springboard (8 a.m.), men’s synchro springboard (11:30)
Thursday: Women’s platform (11:30 a.m.)
Friday: Men’s three-meter springboard (11:30 a.m.)
Saturday, July 27: Women’s three-meter springboard (11:30 a.m.)
Sunday, July 28: Men’s platform (8 a.m.)

Sidney Crosby’s sister wants to play in Olympics

Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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