David Boudia

David Boudia scraps springboard plan; Nick McCrory retires

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Olympic diving champion David Boudia will stick with the platform and not try to add a springboard event going into the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Boudia, who in London became the first U.S. Olympic diving gold medalist since 2000, competed in national and international springboard events in 2013 and 2014 for the first time since 2010.

Boudia last competed in July and said then that he wanted to make the 2016 Olympic team in three events — individual platform (his gold medal event), synchronized platform and either individual or synchronized springboard.

That’s no longer the case.

Boudia said he and his coach, Adam Soldati, and USA Diving high-performance director Steve Foley discussed his options in February and came to the conclusion he would try for two events in Rio. Boudia also entered two events at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

“We want to have me set up for the best success that we can,” Boudia said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We want to put all our eggs in one basket in platform. That’s what I’ve been doing all my career. That’s what I’m good at.”

Boudia, 25, will compete next week for the first time in eight months and the first time individually on platform in 11 months, at the FINA Diving World Series opener in Beijing (full U.S. roster here).

“I’m not really expecting to be at the top of my game,” Boudia said. “I’m eager to see what the other divers look like, but I’m even more eager to get back up on the 10-meter [platform].”

Boudia showed promising early results in springboard last season, finishing eighth at the FINA World Cup in Shanghai but only 17 points out of third place.

He also saw that his platform rivals, such as Chinese World champion Qiu Bo and Great Britain’s Tom Daley, were still specializing in platform only.

“It’s just a hard event, and it’s even harder when you’re doing both,” Boudia said. “If I decided to do three events, I could do fairly well.”

He speculated finishing something like fourth, fifth and sixth at a major meet in three events. Canadian Alex Despatie was second, fourth and fifth in three events at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Boudia would rather try to become the first man since Greg Louganis (1984, 1988) to repeat as Olympic platform champion than become the first American since Mark Ruiz (2000) to make the Olympics in both springboard and platform. He left the door open to add springboard after the 2016 Olympics.

In December, Boudia suffered a broken right foot slipping on the springboard in “a fluke accident” in practice and joked it may have been a sign he should quit springboard.

He’s also dealt with wrist tweaks, common for platform divers, but a little bit of adversity for Boudia, who stayed relatively injury-free since his Olympic debut at age 19 in 2008.

Boudia also became a father on Sept. 10, when wife Sonnie gave birth to daughter Dakoda.

In November, he learned that his Olympic synchro platform partner Nick McCrory retired to pursue medical studies. McCrory, who earned bronze with Boudia in London, had barely competed since the 2012 Games. Boudia had already started training and competing with a new partner, Purdue’s Steele Johnson.

Boudia and Johnson will return to synchro competition in May, after Johnson’s NCAA season.

Pan American Games medals include Braille (photos)

Bradie Tennell matures from Cinderella — keeping AC/DC — in Skate America return

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Bradie Tennell is asked to recall one memory from 2017 Skate America.

“Standing at the door for free program and looking into the arena and saying to myself, oh, it feels a bit like nationals,” she said.

Tennell returns this week to the event where she broke out last season. Before 2017 Skate America, Tennell had never competed on the top senior international level. She had finished sixth and ninth at two nationals appearances, spending a summer in a back brace in between. She was the dark horse for the three-woman Olympic team.

Then Tennell went 15 for 15 on her jumps at Skate America at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Arena on Thanksgiving weekend. She earned a bronze medal with the highest score in any international competition by a U.S. woman in more than a year and half.

“I did my job,” Tennell said that day. “I think I have [put myself in the Olympic conversation].”

Tennell’s next three competitions were nationals (which she won) and the Olympics and world championships, where she was the top-placing American in ninth and sixth, respectively, albeit with uncharacteristic jumping errors.

She goes into this week’s Skate America — at the beginning of the Grand Prix series, rather than the end — as the clear American headliner in the marquee Winter Olympic event.

MORE: Skate America TV, stream schedule

Mirai NagasuAshley Wagner and Polina Edmunds aren’t competing this fall. Gracie Gold is coming back but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

“I don’t really get nervous, per se,” Tennell said last week. “I think the only time that I am anything close to like anxious is right before my music starts. But last year I was so excited to be at my first Grand Prix, finally, after so much had happened in the past. That excitement carried over into my performances.”

Tennell’s goals this season, which she looks at daily with coach Denise Myers in suburban Chicago, include showing a grown-up look. Last season, Tennell’s teenage free skate was to “Cinderella.” This season, the 20-year-old chose “Romeo and Juliet.”

“I want this year’s Bradie to be very mature, very elegant, somebody who is almost unrecognizable from last year,” Tennell said in an interview with Skating magazine, for which she wore a black “New Kids on the Block” sleeveless T-shirt and plugged into a Sanyo Walkman for the cover photo shoot, an homage to her love of 1980s rock. 

Tennell used the Shakespearean tragedy to overtake Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia in her season debut at the Autumn Classic in Canada last month. The free-skate score ranks sixth in the world going into the Grand Prix series, trailing three Russians and two Japanese.

The challenge for Tennell and every top U.S. woman the last several years has been breaking into the top echelon of skaters from Russia and Japan.

“When she blew onto the scene, obviously, technically, she’s fantastic and so consistent [with jumps], which I think really sets her apart,” NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski said. “The effort [at Autumn Classic], the choices of music, her movement, choreography, intention behind each movement is, in my opinion, dramatically improved from last year. Is it at the same level as Yevgenia or [Olympic champion] Alina Zagitova? No. So I still think this is going to be a time of transformation for her over the next few seasons. But she’s off to a really, really strong start.”

Tennell also added the triple Lutz-triple loop combination, done only by Zagitova last season among the senior women.

Myers, who has coached Tennell since age 9, insists they don’t compare scores or even talk about placements.

“I don’t give that any thought,” said Tennell, whose pre-competition focus is on the likes of AC/DC, Journey and Foreigner on her 100-plus-song playlist. “I don’t focus on other people, who they are or what they’ve done.”

Then Tennell may not be dwelling on the fact that she could become the youngest U.S. woman to win Skate America since Kimmie Meissner in 2007. Neither Zagitova nor Medvedeva is in this week’s field in Everett, Wash. Neither is world champion Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada, who is taking the season off.

The top threats are Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto, who went one-two ahead of Tennell at 2017 Skate America. Tennell’s total score from Autumn Classic (206.41) beat those from Miyahara and Sakamoto in their late-summer events.

“You can tell that [Tennell] didn’t win the national title, go to the Olympics and is relaxing, easing into the next Olympic cycle,” NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir said. “She’s out for blood.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Gracie Gold details ‘mental health crisis,’ return to skating

Watch ‘1968’ and ‘Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos’

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NBCSN airs “1968,” the NBC Olympics documentary on the Mexico City Games narrated by Serena Williams, followed by a 15-minute excerpt of “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos” on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Both full programs can also be streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

“1968,” which premiered during the PyeongChang Winter Games, tells the stories not only of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists on the medal podium, but also of the intersections of sports and politics leading up to and during the Mexico City Olympics.

“Bring the Fire” focuses on Smith, Carlos and the podium gesture, featuring a conversation between NBC Sports track and field analyst Ato Boldon and Carlos.

STREAM LINK: “1968”
STREAM LINK: “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos”

Then on Oct. 31, NBCSN premieres a two-hour special, “1968: The Legacy of the Mexico City Games,” at 8:30 p.m. ET. That show will include “1968,” along with a roundtable discussion about the legacy of the Mexico City Games.

Mike Tirico hosts a panel including Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab), tennis player James Blake and Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.

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MORE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith remember 1968 Olympics on 50th anniversary