David Boudia

David Boudia ponders a third diving event leading to 2016

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David Boudia was a spectator for the biggest platform diving final of the year. He considered that a competitive advantage considering the big picture, the 2016 Olympics.

“I was able to be on the outside looking into the competition,” he said. “I saw their strengths, weaknesses. I was evaluating.”

Boudia entered three of four events at the FINA World Cup in Shanghai last week. The one he missed was the platform, his 2012 Olympic gold medal event. Boudia didn’t contest it at the 2013 Winter Nationals, where individual World Cup spots were determined.

Why?

Boudia has said he’s using the “off year” — no Olympics, no World Championships — to experiment with new dives and new events.

So, Boudia spent most of his time in Shanghai climbing three meters above the pool rather than 10. He placed eighth in the 3m springboard, fourth in the synchro springboard with Sam Dorman and third in the synchro platform with Steele Johnson.

He watched the last event Sunday, the men’s platform final, where the Chinese pipeline produced another one-two finish. Yang Jian, 20, scored 543.83 points to defeat veteran Qiu Bo, who had 528.5.

Three years ago, Qiu won the World Championship and became the Olympic favorite. But Boudia knocked him off by 1.8 points in London for the first U.S. Olympic diving gold medal since 2000.

Qiu repeated as World champion with 581 points in Barcelona last year, where Boudia was a distant second with 517.4 in the final (though Boudia beat Qiu in the semis).

Boudia couldn’t have been surprised seeing Qiu and Yang star in Shanghai, given he finished behind one of them at each of his three World Series platform competitions this year.

“They’re on a whole other level than the rest of the world,” Boudia said (Yang can be unrivaled in particular, scoring a record 616.5 points at the London World Series event). “I definitely think [Yang] will probably be the favorite going into Rio. Qiu Bo is right behind him.”

Yet Boudia doesn’t consider himself an underdog. Not with that Olympic gold medal back home in Indiana.

“London [2012] really boosted my confidence and belief that I can contend with these Chinese guys,” he said. “Diving is a world where consistency is the name of the game. Any given day a guy can miss a dive just like that, and they’re out of it totally.”

Boudia finished his season in Shanghai, and he’s left with thoughts as he takes a break for the birth of his daughter. What events does he want to try to qualify for his third Olympics in 2016?

He wants three — individual platform, synchro platform and either individual springboard or synchro springboard. He flew to Shanghai leaning toward the synchro springboard, but that eighth-place finish in the individual springboard was encouraging for Boudia, who won the Winter Nationals title in the event.

He sees room for improvement without much separation from the medal contenders.

“Going into the last round here in the World Cup, I was maybe four or five points out of third place … and I didn’t have the hardest dives,” Boudia said.

No U.S. diver has qualified for both individual Olympic events since Mark Ruiz in 2000. Before that, the last to do it was Greg Louganis, who swept the platform and springboard golds in 1984 and 1988. Nobody has won Olympic medals in both events since Russian Dmitry Sautin in 2000.

Boudia’s added event is just one of the changes for USA Diving since it won four medals in London. Five of the six women on the Olympic Team have retired, with synchro springboard silver medalist Abby Johnston the outlier.

Boudia’s Olympic synchro platform bronze medal teammate, Nick McCrory, competed internationally for the first time since the Olympics in Shanghai. Like Boudia, he focused on the springboard, finishing 12th.

It appears they won’t dive together in synchro platform leading into Rio, since Boudia has a new synchro platform partner in the 18-year-old Johnson.

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Russia’s goal for 2018 Olympics to top medal standings

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07:  Bobsleigh racer Alexander Zubkov of the Russia Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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Russia’s goal for the 2018 Olympics is to repeat its success from Sochi by topping the medal standings for a second straight Winter Games, the Russian Olympic Committee president reportedly said Thursday.

“Our team finished in the first place of the unofficial medals standings during the Olympics in Sochi,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “This is why the priority task for the national team is to maintain its leading position at the 2018 Games.”

Zhukov cautioned that there has been a recent decrease in potential medalists, plus no longer having the home-field advantage as it had in Sochi.

Zhukov’s comments came one day before the second part of a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report investigating Russian doping allegations is to be published.

In May, The New York Times reported that dozens of Russian athletes, including 15 Sochi medalists, were on a state-run doping program leading into the 2014 Winter Games.

So far, no Russian medalists have been found guilty of cheating for the Sochi Olympics.

In Sochi, Russia earned 33 medals and 13 golds. The next highest totals were 28 medals by the U.S. and 11 golds by Norway.

The last time the Winter Games were in East Asia, Russia placed third in total medals and golds behind Germany and Norway.

MORE: Russian Olympic champion to oversee RUSADA

Bob McKenzie: ‘It doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea’

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If the status quo doesn’t change, the NHL will likely decide in January not to send players to the 2018 Olympics, insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN on Wednesday night.

The NHL Board of Governors is meeting in Florida on Thursday and Friday, and the Olympics are expected to be discussed, but no decision on NHL participation in Pyeongchang is expected.

“Absent some new X-factor that comes into the equation, something that changes up the minds of the governors or other people involved in this Olympic decision, it doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea,” McKenzie said. “But that decision won’t be made until probably January.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation recently met with hockey federations, which asked about a Plan B should the NHL not participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

“There was no real answer, don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” McKenzie said. “There are some federations who believe that it’s going to be absolute chaos. For the very simple reason that if you think the National Hockey League doesn’t want to shut down its league, neither do a lot of the European leagues, whether it be Sweden or Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, you name it.”

Earlier this fall, the world’s second-best league — the KHL in Russia — said it planned to take its usual break and release players for the Olympics like it has done for recent Winter Games. KHL rosters for its 29 teams include double-digit Canadians and double-digit Americans, some with NHL experience.

An official from Sweden’s top league said in October that it had not decided if it will take an Olympic break and was following the discussions between the NHL and IIHF.

Finland’s top league said in October that it was planning to take a break in its season to send players to the Olympics, but a final decision had not been made.

NCAA rules allow players to leave their programs for Olympic tryouts and the Games themselves. One active NCAA player competed in the 2014 Olympics — Bowling Green’s Ralfs Freibergs, who missed two college games that season to participate in Sochi for Latvia.

“If the NHLers aren’t going, it could be the wild, wild, west,” McKenzie said. “Try and find a player anywhere to represent your country.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set