A Bid To End U.S. Medal Drought In Diving

The U.S. has taken a bit of a nosedive when it comes to winning Olympic medals in diving. Not a single American diver has stood on the medal stand in the past two games. 23-year old David Boudia hopes to change that. Sam Klemet WBAA

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Now, the last time a U.S. Olympic diver won a gold medal was 20 years ago and not a single American diver has stood on the medal stand in the past two games. This Friday, though, a 23-year-old diver from Noblesville, Indiana, could change that when the 2012 Olympics kick off in London. His name is David Boudia, and reporter Sam Klemet from member station WBAA has this profile.

SAM KLEMET, BYLINE: Hand stands, running starts, backflips. No matter how David Boudia dives from the top of the 10-meter platform into the water, it's always fast and always aggressive. It's like he's attacking the sky. But coming down, he's graceful.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

KLEMET: I climb the stairs up to the 10-meter platform at Purdue University where he trains and even getting up here is a feat. And even more so for Boudia, who isn't particularly fond of heights.

DAVID BOUDIA: You look down and it's three stories high, but - and it's another two and a half to the bottom of the pool. So, you know, you have to be crazy to jump off something like that.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEMET: Dan Ross heads the swimming and diving program at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. He describes what it's like to see Boudia dive.

DAN ROSS: It's like going out to a really, really nice restaurant and ordering something. You know it's going to be good, and it's even better than you thought.

KLEMET: This is Boudia's second Olympics. Four years ago, the Chinese divers dominated the diving events in the games they hosted, winning gold in all but one competition.

BOUDIA: You know the pressure is there, you know that the United States hasn't medaled. But, you know, I think a fault that we went wrong in 2008 was focusing so much on getting these medals.

KLEMET: Boudia says he hit a breaking point after he returned from China.

BOUDIA: I was 19 years old at the biggest spectacle in sports, the biggest stage that you could be on, that's the Olympic Games. And, you know, just learning what I was chasing after in 2008 was, you know, trying to get this medal and trying to get fame and trying to get recognition, and that always deteriorates and never lasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

KLEMET: At the Beijing games, Boudia finished 10th in the individual 10-meter platform and fifth with his partner in synchronized diving. Boudia's first Olympic experience was an eye opener.

BOUDIA: I didn't have any faith. I didn't really have, you know, a commitment with God, and that was a big growing experience.

KLEMET: One that he built on to win silver in the 10-meter platform at the World Championships last year in Shanghai. By doing so, Boudia became the first American man to medal at the championships in a quarter century. The last: Greg Louganis.

GREG LOUGANIS: It was great. He put it together, and really, that's what he's going to need to do in London.

KLEMET: The four-time Olympic gold medalist is mentoring Boudia and other American divers competing at the London games.

LOUGANIS: In '04 and '08, a lot of the competitors were like deers caught in headlights. They may have been prepared physically, but they weren't prepared mentally and emotionally for what they were about to face.

KLEMET: But Louganis now believes Boudia has a great chance to win a medal.

LOUGANIS: I think that David has a better sense of belonging that he deserves to be there. And you have to have that to be able to compete and compete effectively on that level on the Olympic stage.

KLEMET: David Boudia's dream is to win an Olympic medal, and he's as close as ever to making that dream come true.

BOUDIA: My confidence level with my diving has grown a lot, and then just the character behind it has just totally changed as far as perspective. I'm not in control up there. It's not me who is trying to get the scores. You know, I'm trying to dive for God's glory, and it just totally puts perspective on why I'm doing this and how I'm doing it.

KLEMET: Regardless of whether he wins a medal in London or not, Boudia is planning to compete in his third Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. For NPR News, I'm Sam Klemet in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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