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David Boudia’s diving comeback delayed by concussion

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Four-time Olympic diving medalist David Boudia is missing this week’s national championships and next month’s FINA World Cup, the biggest competition of the year, due to a concussion suffered in a crash off the 10m platform.

“Since February I’ve been struggling with dizziness, blackouts, numbness, and fatigue which I assumed resulted from high anxiety from a crash I had from 10m (Having struggled with high anxiety in the past I choose to push through it and chalked it to that),” was posted on Boudia’s social media Monday. “After going to our team physician, the crash resulted in a concussion and was not resolving due to a lack of recovery (continuing to dive on my head). Unfortunately, this means that I will be out of competition for our major events (National Championship & World Cup) because of the time off to recover. Hard to swallow that having been training for almost a year to get back to elite competition which mean I get to choose to be content with the end goal in mind and push on towards #tokyo2020 and more importantly trusting in the Lord’s plan for my pursuit toward diving and giving up my own plans.”

Boudia, 29, has not competed since taking individual bronze and synchronized silver on the platform in Rio. He also earned individual gold and synchro bronze in 2012.

He considered retirement after his third Olympics but announced in September he planned to return to competition this year after taking the 2017 season off, missing the world championships for the first time in a senior career that dates to 2005.

“I just missed the relationships that I had at the pool, that I had with the diving community,” Boudia said then 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, after never taking more than three months away from diving since 2000, turned to real estate after the Rio Games.

“If you would have asked me in 2015 if I was done [after Rio], I would have said yes; I was drained,” Boudia said in September. “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.”

Boudia’s platform gold in 2012 ended a medal drought for U.S. divers in individual events since Laura Wilkinson‘s surprise Sydney 2000 title.

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

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Since February I’ve been struggling with dizziness, blackouts, numbness, and fatigue which I assumed resulted from high anxiety from a crash I had from 10m (Having struggled with high anxiety in the past I choose to push through it and chalked it to that) – after going to our team physician, the crash resulted in a concussion and was not resolving due to a lack of recovery (continuing to dive on my head). Unfortunately, this means that I will be out of competition for our major events (National Championship & World Cup) because of the time off to recover. Hard to swallow that having been training for almost a year to get back to elite competition which mean I get to choose to be content with the end goal in mind and push on towards #tokyo2020 and more importantly trusting in the Lord’s plan for my pursuit toward diving and giving up my own plans.

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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, Soldati 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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U.S. diving moves on without David Boudia

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ATLANTA (AP) — These days, the pool deck seems a little empty for the U.S. diving team.

Someone’s missing.

David Boudia.

He was the stalwart of the American program for the better part of the decade, the guy who usually came through at the biggest meets.

“It’s going to be weird … not having David there,” said Steele Johnson, a good friend of Boudia’s and former synchronized partner. “But at the same time, it’s a new generation.”

After winning two more Olympic medals in Rio, Boudia decided to take a year off and may be done for good. His wife is having their second child, and there’s not much left to accomplish at age 27.

With a little over three years to go before the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. is already moving toward filling the huge hole that Boudia’s retirement would leave.

“I’m sure everyone has felt that same way about other people,” Johnson said. “Like when Mark Ruiz retired or Laura Wilkinson first retired, all these awesome people, it’s always different. But it’s a good change. Generational change needs to happen.”

MORE: Wilkinson unretries

There are some experienced divers for the U.S. team to build around, including Johnson, a silver medalist with Boudia in synchronized platform at the Rio Games last summer, and the springboard team of Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon, who also captured a silver in synchro springboard.

Several promising youngsters are working their way up, as well, most notably 14-year-old Tarrin Gilliland.

During a recent meet in Atlanta, the Texas teen qualified for a pair of synchronized events at the July world championships in Budapest, Hungary. Gilliland paired with Olympian Jessica Parratto to win the women’s platform and joined Andrew Capobianco to claim victory in the mixed platform, a non-Olympic event.

Yep, it’s going to be quite a summer break for the high school freshman.

“The plan is to keep getting stronger and healthier and start getting my dives more consistent, and maybe add some (degree of difficulty) in there,” Gilliland said. “And just have fun during the process.”

Everyone realizes that not having Boudia puts a huge burden on the rest of the divers to step up their performances, especially if they want to have any chance against the powerful Chinese team.

Boudia had a hand in two of the three diving medals the Americans won in Rio, also taking an individual bronze in the platform.

He also captured two medals in London, including a stunning gold in 10-meter — the first Olympic win for the U.S. in a dozen years — along with a synchronized bronze off the big tower.

Throw in Boudia’s performances at the next-biggest meet on the calendar, and it’s clear how much he meant to the program. Over the last five world championships, he earned four silvers and a bronze.

“David Boudia obviously offered a lot of leadership and he had a lot of experience, so he was a role model to a lot of us,” said Kassidy Cook, a Rio Olympian. “But I think that a lot of other people, like Sam and Mikey and me, we can pick up where he kind of left us off. He’s left us with a lot of good advice and some good leadership roles to fill in. Although we will miss him if he doesn’t come back, we can definitely keep up the positive attitude and hard-working vibes transitioning into this next Olympics.”

Boudia still takes time to mentor Johnson and other young divers based in Indiana.

But Johnson, who is only 20, knows it will be on him and the other Olympic veterans to work with those who haven’t experienced those sort of high-pressure meets.

“Leading into the Olympic year, I really learned from David, through all the World Series meets, how to really handle each competition with different environments and different competitors,” Johnson recalled. “It’s just a lot of learning over these next few years, but it’s a lot of fun interaction with each other.”

He is eager to see how divers such as Gilliland and 15-year-old Maria Coburn, who qualified for worlds in synchronized 3-meter, fare in Budapest.

No matter what the result, the experience they gain will be invaluable.

“It’s good for them to get their feet wet now, with three years left leading up,” Johnson said. “There’s time for growth. You may not go in and win world championships your first time. You may never win. But you’re going to go into these competitions and you’re going to learn from those experiences. That’s what I did the first couple of years when David and I competed.”

As part of the development process, the coaches have paired of up veterans with some of the most promising newcomers. Parratto has taken Gilliland under her wing. Coburn will compete at worlds with Cook.

Synchro diving has become a huge emphasis for the U.S., contributing heavily to its renewed success at the last two Olympics. The Americans were shut out in both 2004 and 2008, an embarrassing fall for a program that once dominated the international scene with stars such as Greg Louganis. But synchro, in which only eight teams compete in a single round of competition, provides a much better chance of reaching the medal stand.

“Synchro has definitely been a main focus for the United States,” Cook said. “You only have to beat five teams to get on the podium. That is definitely the best shot for a medal at the Olympics and the world championships.”

That will continue to be the strategy heading toward Tokyo.

With or without Boudia.

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