INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Steele Johnson wouldn’t let the reality sink in until after the final dive Thursday night. David Boudia wouldn’t let him.
Standing off to the side of the 10-meter platform, Johnson realized he and synchronized diving teammate Boudia had such a large lead if they didn’t complete their final dive they would still win the final round and earn spots in the Olympic Games.
But Boudia, who competed in the 2008 and 20012 Olympics, reeled in his teammate and the pair completed their final dive, finishing with a score of 1,326.57 to cement their spot on the U.S. team.
Ryan Hawkins and Toby Stanley finished in second at 1,088.55.
“I knew we didn’t have to do our last dive because we were so far ahead, but (David) brought me back down to where we needed to be,” Johnson said. “He said we still had a job to do, but the second we hit the water (the emotions) came out.”
They won by 238 points, and they did it Indianapolis just miles from their hometowns. And if there was a moment where the two left no doubt in the minds of their competitors and spectators that were present, it was their 4 1/2-rotation forward summersault in the fifth round that garnered a 101.01 from the judges and an almost standing ovation from the crowd in attendance.
“How those dives went tonight is how they go in training,” Johnson said.
Boudia added, “Diving like this is in our bag of tricks, we train like this. But for it to play out like this in competition right before we leave for (Rio) is exactly what we wanted. Yes we did make it to the Olympic Games, but this isn’t where (success) stops. This is just the beginning.”
Boudia said Thursday night was the most emotional he has ever been in this, his third time making the Summer Games.
As the two came out of the water on their final dive, they ran over to the section where their families were sitting. Boudia hugged his wife and then raised his daughter into the air before hugging her. Johnson’s family, all of them donning matching t-shirts in support of Steele, gathered around the railing and waited for Johnson. When Johnson made it to the railing, he and his father shared a very emotional moment as the two hugged.
Johnson said he had been off social media for three weeks, and would only hop back on the grid for tonight. Tomorrow, the two will be back on the platform, practicing for the 10-meter individual final Sunday (standings here). Then, preparing for the Olympics in less than two months will be the only focus.
As Johnson began talking about the individual task ahead of both divers for Sunday’s event and the training the pair still needs before Rio, Boudia interrupted his teammate — it was time for Johnson to embrace the moment and forget about everything else.
“We get to enjoy this night,” Boudia said, looking at Johnson as he started to fight back tears.