David Boudia
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David Boudia: ‘Silver is like a thorn in the side’

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David Boudia stood on the pool deck at the Indiana University Natatorium content with his performance at USA Diving’s Winter Nationals.

He didn’t need three perfect 10s to prove he’s still the best American in the sport or another national championship to illustrate he’s on top of his game starting another crucial year.

Instead, the 26-year-old defending Olympic champion has learned there are more important things in life than simply impressing judges and having shiny, new medals draped around his neck. So as Boudia embarks on his third, and perhaps final Olympics quest, he’s focused on bigger issues such as professional satisfaction and family security.

“I accomplished a huge goal [in 2012] and that’s still the goal in 2016,” Boudia said after winning his 20th national title in December. “But I’ve put that up on a shelf. This is my job now.”

In the pool, not much has changed.

Boudia is likely to be the most experienced diver on this year’s U.S. men’s team, and he’s still the Americans’ best chance to again break up the Chinese dynasty. At the 2012 London Games, the Chinese took gold in both synchro events and silver in both individual events. This year, they’ll try to reclaim gold in the springboard after a streak of four straight Olympic golds ended in 2012, and reigning World champ Qiu Bo will try to dethrone Boudia in Rio.

Since London, Boudia’s life is completely different.

Two months after becoming the first American male diver to win Olympic gold in two decades, he married his girlfriend, Sonnie Brand. In September 2014, they welcomed their first child, Dakoda.

Along the way, Boudia picked up endorsement deals, served as a judge on Greg Louganis‘ reality television show “Splash” and teamed with a new partner, Purdue’s Steele Johnson, in platform synchro.

Yet even as some tried to turn Boudia into a budding celebrity, his small-town charm and down-to-earth personality never allowed him to be anything more than grounded and motivated.

“He really has a different perspective going into ’16,” Johnson said. “He’s not trying to please himself. He can see when I start to dive for myself and when he sees that, he pushes me the other way.”

Boudia certainly has not lost his passion or penchant for excellence.

He still wants to become the first American male since Louganis in 1988 and the fourth American in history to defend his gold medal in the platform. He’d also like to become to be the first U.S. man to earn a second medal in platform synchro after taking bronze with Nick McCrory in 2012.

The results since then have been frustrating.

He earned bronze at the diving world series event in Dubai in 2014 and individual silvers on platform at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships. For Boudia, that wasn’t good enough.

“A silver is like a thorn in the side,” Boudia said.

Even for a man who has one of the most impressive resumes in diving history.

In addition to winning two Olympic medals, the Purdue alum owns six NCAA titles, was named the nation’s best college diver in 2009 and 2010 and the Big Ten’s best overall athlete in 2011. He once medaled in 10 consecutive international competitions in platform synchro and was recently named USA Diving’s Athlete of the Year for the sixth straight year and seventh time overall, both American records.

He’s even considered expanding his normal repertoire to include the springboard.

But those closest to Boudia do see a difference in his Olympic prep work this time.

“He’s at his best when he doesn’t focus on outcomes or medals or placements,” his wife said. “His priorities are different now. He’s supporting us with his abilities, and I think he’s going to let it (his career) ride as long as it goes.”

There have been other changes, too.

Sonnie, who once traveled regularly around the world with him, has scaled back her trips. Neither she nor Dakoda is expected to attend this month’s World Cup (beginning Friday on NBC Sports Live Extra), where Boudia and Johnson will try to lock up an Olympic qualifying spot for the Americans. It’s being held in the same Rio venue as the Olympics starting Friday.

After acknowledging there was a time Boudia felt his sole motivation to achieve goals was for himself, experience has taught him the most precious moments are not defined by others.

“It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves for Olympic games, and with that in mind, I think we’re right where we need to be,” Boudia said. “But now I have to be working hard for my family. Four years ago, I was working for myself.”

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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