David Boudia
AP

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.”

Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter passes away

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

Grieving Mikaela Shiffrin returns to World Cup Alpine action with fourth reindeer at stake

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The traditional World Cup Alpine skiing season opener last month in Soelden, Austria, was an emotional one for Mikaela Shiffrin.

Shiffrin’s grandmother, Pauline Condron, was in declining health in the days leading up to the race, making Shiffrin wonder if she should head home instead of staying in Soelden. Condron was especially close to Shiffrin, helping to take care of her soon after birth.

Condron passed away Oct. 22, four days before the Soelden giant slalom, at age 98.

“Polly loved sports,” Condron’s obituary said. “She was an avid bowler in her younger years and enjoyed playing tennis and skiing. Few people know that she excelled at ping pong, had a killer serve, gave up very few games and played into her 90s.”

Condron was able to see Shiffrin in person at World Cup races in Killington, Vt. The World Cup will return next weekend to Killington, which has just passed its FIS inspection.

Shiffrin finished second in Soelden’s giant slalom to an upstart rival, 17-year-old New Zealander Alice Robinson. Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the giant slalom, but she hasn’t won in Soelden since 2014.

In the slalom, Shiffrin is more dominant. She won eight of nine World Cup races last year, losing only to Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, and won her fourth straight world championship despite battling illness. The last time Shiffrin finished worse than second in the technical discipline was in the 2018 Olympics, when she uncharacteristically faltered and finished fourth.

Saturday’s race in Levi, Finland, is a slalom. Shiffrin has won three of the last five races in Levi, which means she also has three reindeer  Rudolph, Sven and Mr. Gru. She can win a fourth on Saturday.

The men also have a slalom this weekend in Levi, racing Sunday.

Both runs for each event stream live on NBC Sports Gold at 4:15 and 7 a.m. ET, with the Olympic Channel also carrying the second runs each day.

MORE: Alpine skiing TV schedule

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