Nov. 13, 2008
By Larry Watts
When David Boudia began preparing for his freshman season at Purdue University, the Noblesville, Ind. native admits it had been three and a half to four years since he had done any serious training on the springboard.
There hadn't been a mental obstacle, or a physical one, to overcome. Boudia was still driving daily to the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis for workouts with his coach, John Wingfield. But his sights were always set much higher than the 3-merter or 1-meter springboard, and so was his climb. He was diving from the 10-meter platform and his goal was the Olympics.
Boudia originally began chasing his Olympic dream as a gymnast at the age of 5. But by the time he was 10, his focus turned from the mats to the water.
"I was burned out," he says. "I was always flipping around and doing crazy things, so I decided to transfer it to diving. At first there were a lot of belly-flops and headers, but fortunately no serious injuries."
It hasn't taken long for Boudia to realize his dream. Together with synchro partner and good friend Thomas Finchum, they have dominated the United States platform competition for the past four years.
Recently named USA Diving's Athlete of the Year, the 19-year-old Boudia captured three national championships and five international medals during the past season. His year started with a bronze at the FINA World Cup and then he won silver at the FINA World Series. With Finchum, the synchro pair posted two silvers and a bronze in World Series and Grand Prix competition.
During the Olympic Trials, he posted perfect scores on back-to-back dives and went on to claim the top individual berth on the U.S. team. Then in Beijing, he was 10th in the individual competition and finished fifth with Finchum in synchro, missing a bronze medal by five points.
"It was a very successful trip, yet we also didn't do what I wanted, and that was to be on that medal podium," Boudia says about his first Olympic experience. "It was definitely amazing to meet all those great athletes who are the best in the world."
As soon as he returned home to Noblesville, he immediately packed his bags and headed off to West Lafayette. And there was little time to bask in his accomplishments on the platform because now he had to turn his attention to the springboard.
It didn't take long for Boudia to shake off the rust, if there was any. In his very first appearance of the season, the Indiana Intercollegiates, he shattered the Purdue school record by nearly 22 points on the 1-meter board, posting a score of 399.40. In the third meet at Miami Ohio, he broke the school mark on the 3-meter board with a score of 476.70. Two meets later, he set pool records while winning both events at Notre Dame last Saturday.
"It took a few days to get used to it (springboard) again," Boudia says. "Since I hadn't done any serious training for so long, it was a matter of getting my spots down and getting a feel for it again.
"In platform diving, you need a lot of power and have to be mentally aggressive. The springboard is more patience because you are waiting for the right moment when the board wrenches up."
Until recently, Boudia listened to "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC on his iPod before making his first dive. "But it's been changing lately," he says. "I just try to listen to something that will get my blood flowing. I like angry themes."
Boudia, who won't experience his first collegiate platform competition until the Texas A&M Invitational Nov. 22-23, also credits the competition within his own team as a big reason why he isn't able to relax. Sophomore David Colturi has already defeated the Olympian once in each event.
"I've been lucky here at Purdue to have a great support system with David," Boudia says. "It's a lot like being with Tom (Finchum). We both want to beat each other, but at the same time we are pushing each other to perform to his best and that's great for both of us."
The new Boilermaker sensation says he chose Purdue after his recruiting visit because he fell in love with the campus, the team and diving coach Adam Soldati. "I had seen Adam work the deck before," he says. "I knew he was a very successful coach and I knew he could make me better."
Although he had been home-schooled since the middle of his junior year in high school, Boudia says there has been no problems making the adjustment to university life and becoming a part of a team.
"I think home-schooling really prepared me for college life because you have to be more independent," he says. "I had already become disciplined with the way I handled my day because of my training schedule and studies. I don't think I missed anything socially because I was still able to go to homecoming and two proms at my public school. And when it comes to interaction with others, I was already meeting people from all over the world, learning about their countries and experiencing different cultures, so I may have been better off.
"Competing for the team at Purdue has been a lot of fun. As a diver, you're contributing to the swimming and diving program, so you're always out there trying to do what is best for the team, whether it's the springboard or platform."
And Boudia isn't about to put his Olympic dream aside. Four years from now, he plans on being in London and he hopes to still be competing in 2016, especially if Chicago wins the bid. And his early success at Purdue has him contemplating another event.
"I might even give the 3-meter (spring)board a shot," he says. "It would be a pretty full plate along with synchro, but I think I can handle it."