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David Boudia to return to diving, eyes fourth Olympics

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David Boudia wants to make a fourth Olympic diving team, and hopefully add to his collection of four medals in Tokyo.

The 2012 Olympic platform champion announced in a news conference Tuesday that he will return after taking the 2017 competition season off.

“I just missed the relationships that I had at the pool, that I had with the diving community,” Boudia, 28, said in West Lafayette, Ind., where he trains at Purdue University. “I don’t want to be 35, 40 years old and say what if I would have given it another shot? Kind of too late at that point.”

Boudia has actually kept this a secret for weeks. He’s been training since June with an eye on a run for the 2020 Games.

“This decision wasn’t easy,” Boudia said. “Leading up to Rio [2016], I was mentally exhausted. It was actually a really hard route getting to the Olympics. … Just not wanting to be there. I was in competition on the big stage and just wondering if the grass was greener on the other side.”

Boudia, after never taking more than three months away from diving since 2000, turned to real estate last winter. But he never committed to retirement. Wait and see.

“If you would have asked me in 2015 if I was done [after Rio], I would have said yes; I was drained,” Boudia said. “One of the big reasons, apart from being exhausted mentally, I just felt like [diving] wasn’t what I was supposed to do. You have all the people saying, oh, you’re getting older. You’re 28. You need to start retiring, thinking about what you’re going to do next in life. It’s fun banter. My teammates would call me grandpa. In my mind, I was thinking, maybe it’s time for me to be done in the sport. I let it simmer.”

He met with his coach, Adam Soldati, in January and March before climbing the platform again in June.

Boudia, from Noblesville, Ind., won platform gold at the 2012 London Games, ending a medal drought for U.S. divers in individual events since Laura Wilkinson‘s surprise Sydney 2000 title.

Boudia became the first U.S. male diver to top the Olympic platform since Greg Louganis, who swept the springboard and platform in 1984 and 1988.

He did so after squeaking into the 18-man semifinals in 18th place and edging China’s Qiu Bo by 1.8 points in the final.

Boudia then came back for a third Olympics in Rio — after marrying wife Sonnie and welcoming daughter Dakoda — and earned a bronze medal.

That gave him four Olympic medals overall, combined with synchronized platform bronze and silver medals in 2012 and 2016. Boudia said in February that he would take the 2017 international season off while working in real estate and assessing his diving future.

Before the Rio Games, Boudia revealed his struggles with alcohol and marijuana as a teenager a decade earlier.

He competed at the 2004 Olympic Trials at age 15 but was never going to dive at the Athens Games. He would have failed a drug test if he made the team for smoking pot shortly before the meet.

Boudia suffered from depression — even suicidal thoughts — after his Olympic debut in 2008 and while at Purdue shortly after the Beijing Games.

He credited among others Adam Soldati, his coach at Purdue and through Rio, for guidance, helping him clean up and become a Christian in 2010.

Without Boudia, the U.S. earned zero medals in Olympic events at the world diving championships in July, getting shut out at the biennial meet for the first time since 2003.

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Ashley Wagner details dropping ‘La La Land’ free skate

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Ashley Wagner, the pre-eminent U.S. female figure skater of the last decade, changed her mind on one of the most significant decisions a skater can make going into the Olympic season.

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. champion, tossed out the new free skate she had been working on last month.

It was set to music from “La La Land,” which earned a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations earlier this year and won six Oscars (and, briefly, infamously, a seventh for Best Picture).

Now, she’s back to music from “Moulin Rouge.” It accompanied her free skate in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Those years, Wagner posted the highest free skate scores in U.S. Championships history and for an American in international competition history.

“I really did love the [‘La La Land’] program,” Wagner said Wednesday, while promoting the Dick’s Sporting Goods Contenders program, which assists 41 Winter Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls with their preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“I was very passionate about what I was doing,” she continued. “I started training it day to day, and the music is beautiful. But just something wasn’t quite clicking, and the character didn’t really feel as complicated as I wanted her to be. There really didn’t feel like there was much of an emotional range. And I love drama. I love having those moments.”

The return to “Moulin Rouge” came abruptly as Wagner described it. One day at practice in early August, she consulted her steely coach, Armenian Rafael Arutyunyan.

“Is this program good?” Wagner asked.

“Yeah, it’s a really good program,” Arutyunyan responded.

“Is it good enough? Is this going to get me through the Olympics?” she pressed.

Arutyunyan told Wagner to put “Moulin Rouge” music on and skate.

“I made it to the first double Axel in the program,” Wagner said. “He turns off the program, and he goes, this is the program I want you to do.”

Wagner agreed.

“It’s my Olympic moment,” she said Wednesday, “and this is the person I want to be at the Olympics.”

Wagner, who lives and trains in Southern California, said publicly as far back as February that she wanted to skate to “La La Land” at the Olympics. Skaters usually wait until after the preceding season ends in early spring to announce program music for the following season.

But Wagner was so enamored that she texted her choreographer from a movie theater to say she had chosen “La La Land” for her Olympic free skate.

Wagner’s 11-year senior international career is marked by ups and downs, tears and several concussions. She identified with the film’s theme of hope.

“I love the music. I still do,” she said. “I just think that it was very much like an inspirational kind of a setup. I loved that. I loved the choreography. I can’t speak highly enough of the music. But I just know myself, and I know that after a couple of months of just one emotion, I get bored.”

Two weeks after the switch, Wagner performed to “Moulin Rouge” at last month’s U.S. Figure Skating’s Champs Camp. At Champs Camp, skaters receive preseason feedback from officials on programs before debuting them in competition.

“I gave them the opportunity to see ‘La La Land’ if they wanted to, but everyone at U.S. Figure Skating was very supportive of my decision,” Wagner said.

Wagner said she will make her Olympic season debut at a small, local event. She won’t say where or when it will be. Her international season debut is at Skate Canada the last weekend of October.

She’s gearing up for the U.S. Championships in January, after which three women will be named to the Olympic team. That team will be chosen by a committee based on results not only at nationals but also previous top-level competitions.

Wagner is familiar with the selection process.

She was the top U.S. woman in fall 2009 but finished third at the 2010 U.S. Championships and was left off the two-woman Olympic team.

Wagner was fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and placed on the three-woman Olympic team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu. Wagner earned that spot based on performing the best of all U.S. women nationally and internationally the previous year.

Now 26 years old, Wagner can become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

Wagner wants to separate from her own past this season, even as she performs to music associated with some of the biggest triumphs of her career.

Skating to “Moulin Rouge” again last month, “made me feel like the athlete that I was at 2016 Worlds, so that definitely made me feel nostalgic,” she said, referencing moving from fourth to second in the free skate in Boston to become the first U.S. world medalist in a decade. “Maybe that’s why I like this program so much.”

But judges may want to see something new.

So Wagner added professional dancer Benji Schwimmer to her choreography team. Schwimmer has worked with Wagner’s best friend and training partner Adam Rippon.

“This is a new season,” Wagner said, “and hopefully somewhat of a new version of Moulin Rouge.”

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Officer body checks fan at world road cycling championships (video)

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A man dressed as a police officer leveled a fan at the world road cycling championships men’s time trial in Bergen, Norway, on Wednesday.

Spectators often run up close enough to touch riders on mountain stages at the Tour de France.

However, this man in a red hooded sweatshirt was decked while chasing German Tony Martin from two or three strides behind near the summit finish of a 19-mile time trial.

Martin, eyeing his record fifth world title in the time trial, was ninth on a course not suited to his strengths.

A full recap of the race is here.

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