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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Ashley Wagner handed Puffs box in emotional press conference (video)

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KANSAS CITY — Ashley Wagner was on the verge of tears (of joy) after taking silver at the U.S. Championships. A U.S. Figure Skating official came to her aid during a press conference, passing a box of Puffs onto the table.

A reporter told Wagner, 25, that it’s believed she’s the oldest U.S. women’s podium finisher since at least World War II. Wagner, not much of a fan of age remarks, smiled.

“Oh my god, you had to mention a World War,” she said. “I’m getting emotional, just because this is so hard, what I do, and I am so proud that I am still here today because I was 15 or 16 at my first world championships [16, in 2008], and I’m here, and I’m 25, it’s almost 10 years later. That’s something that you just don’t see in this sport. I’m here because I love it, and I am so stubborn.”

At that point, the green box of Puffs, one of U.S. Figure Skating’s sponsors, appeared to Wagner’s right.

“My passion is what fuels me,” she continued, “and I’m really proud of myself. I hope one day people will look back. I’m always here because I work to be here, and that’s something that I’m really proud of.”

MORE: Gracie Gold comments after sixth-place finish

Karen Chen holds off Ashley Wagner for shocking U.S. title

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KANSAS CITY — Karen Chen was as surprised as anyone that she won the U.S. title.

“I’m just in complete shock,” said Chen, who was eighth last year. “It was hard for me to believe that this day would come.”

Chen, 17, overcame nearly two seasons’ worth of struggles to win her first national championship Saturday night. She posted the highest short-program and free-skate scores and topped a field that included three Olympians.

Most notably Ashley Wagner, who finished second, 2.44 points behind. Wagner, a three-time U.S. champion and 2016 World silver medalist, just missed becoming the oldest women’s gold medalist in 90 years.

Wagner didn’t seem to mind her first U.S. silver medal, though, because she’s surely going to be on the three-woman world championships team named Sunday.

“This is perfect for me,” said Wagner, who came into the week as the clear favorite. “It gives me the opportunity to go in [to the world championships] with my head down and keep on working. I know where I lost my points. … I’m not planning on peaking here.”

Mariah Bell, who shares a coach with Wagner, jumped from sixth after the short program to finish third and likely lock down the last worlds spot. Full results are here.

Gracie Gold, who finished fourth at the Olympics and the last two worlds, tumbled to sixth place and is likely to miss worlds for the first time in her five-year senior career. Gold reflected on her disastrous season afterward.

It was also a heartbreaking day for 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu, who fell from second after the short program to finish fourth, 3.02 behind Bell.

Nagasu had four of her jumps called under-rotated in her free skate. Nagasu was heartbreakingly left off the 2014 Olympic team. It looks like she finished one spot shy of making the worlds team, which is chosen by a committee.

“I am speechless,” Nagasu said. “I knew I was ready, and I just didn’t deliver tonight. … This isn’t the way I wanted it to go, but I think that people are defined by how they react to things.”

Like Chen. The Fremont, Calif., native burst onto the scene two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold at age 15.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little had been heard about Chen since (though plenty has been from U.S. men’s leader Nathan Chen, also 17 years old but unrelated).

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

But Chen felt plenty comfortable Thursday, performing a rare clean program for the lead.

“I skated the short of my dreams,” Chen said. “I wanted to follow it up with a close to perfect long.”

It was pretty darn close. Chen landed all of her jumps clean, including seven triples.

“This moment was something that I really dreamed about,” Chen said. “It was far from reality.”

Wagner will likely be leading a world championships team with two rookies in Chen and Bell.

It’s the most pressure-packed worlds of the four-year cycle, because the skaters’ placements determine how many Olympic spots each nation receives.

To ensure the maximum three spots at the Olympics, the top two U.S. finishers at worlds must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example).

Japan and Russia will send three skaters each with the talent to finish in the top five. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond is also a medal threat. Wagner, sitting next to Chen and Bell, stressed that they should “tune out the noise” going into the biggest competition of their careers.

“It is so easy to be devoured by you guys because you all have eaten me alive before,” Wagner, who made her worlds debut in 2008, told the media. “Karen just has to deliver what she did here, Mariah has to do the same thing, and we’ll be set.”

Earlier Saturday, Maia and Alex Shibutani were beaten in the free dance but held on to repeat as U.S. championsHaven Denney and Brandon Frazier were the best of a flawed pairs field to earn their first U.S. title.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday with the men’s free skate (4 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Nathan Chen, 17, is in position to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years.

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14