WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 11, 2012
In one of the most exciting finishes in the sport’s history, David Boudia pulled off a huge upset to win the gold medal Saturday on the final day of diving at the London Olympics.
Only 15/100ths of a point separated the top three divers going into the sixth and final round of men’s platform.
China’s Qiu Bo and Yue Lin, top qualifiers after prelims and semifinals, were overwhelming favorites to medal going into the finals followed closely by Great Britain’s 18-year-old poster boy Tom Daley and Boudia.
It was Boudia, competing in his second Olympics, who captivated the crowd of 17,000 at the Aquatic Centre with his consistent diving after barely qualifying for the semifinal round by finishing 18th, the last qualifying spot.
Boudia, 23, of Noblesville, Ind. is the first male diver since former University of Miami and Mission Bay diver Greg Louganis won a gold medal on platform at the 1988 Seoul Olympics; first male diver to win any gold medal since the late Mark Lenzi won on springboard at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and first U.S. diver to win a gold medal since Laura Wilkinson in 2000.
“That’s the greatest performance I’ve ever seen him have,” said Boudia’s coach, Adam Soldati.
Going into the final round, it was Daley leading with 460.20, and Boudia and Qiu tied with 460.05.
Boudia nailed his back 2 ½ somersault with 2 ½ twists (3.6 degree of difficulty) for 102.60 points to overtake the lead and finish with 568.65 points. Qiu scored 100.80 on the same dive to finish with 566.85 and clinch the silver. Daley scored 90.75 on his reverse 3 ½ somersault (3.3 degree of difficulty), finished with 556.95 and bronze medal.
It was the first diving medal for Great Britain in 52 years and only the fourth aquatics medal for Britain at these Games.
Boudia looked in a state of shock as friends, family and coaches took turns hugging him on the pool deck. He finished second to Qiu at last year’s world championships in Shanghai.
“It’s very hard to believe,” Boudia said. “When I was 13 I was petrified with the height of the 10-meter platform. It took me almost six years to overcome that fear and here I am now, after winning the Olympic gold medal in this event. “My goal was to focus on one dive at a time.”
Entering his final dive, Boudia had no idea he was in contention for the gold medal. He wasn’t looking at the scoreboard, he said.
“If I had known the margin needed to win, my heart would have been pounding and the pressure would have been building,” Boudia said. “I was so calm.
“It’s very hard to believe,” Boudia said. “I’m in disbelief. I dreamed about this. It didn’t even feel like I was diving. It was so surreal.”
When Boudia climbed out of the pool, a Canadian diver told him, “You can smile now.”
“To be in the record books alongside Greg Louganis, the greatest diver in the entire world, Olympic legend, is amazing,” Boudia said. “The rest of the world is definitely catching up behind China.”
Said Louganis who told Boudia two years ago not to be afraid to leave the pack behind, “I have no words to explain what I just saw.”
Qiu, 19, visibly shaken, started crying against a wall. Chinese divers had won six of the seven gold medals awarded going into the final day.
“I have competed so many times but I have never had that much nervousness,” Qiu said. “It is OK. I am still young. I will be back.”
Daley and most of the British diving delegation were in the pool celebrating the 18-year-old’s medal success. It was probably one of the most wild bronze medal celebrations in any sport at the Games. Daley was clearly the favorite of the crowd that included soccer hunk David Beckham and his children clapping wildly.
“It’s simply an amazing experience, after all the difficult times I had in the last 18 months,” Daley said. “Despite all the ups and downs, the medal is here. The crowd certainly contributed to this outcome. I am over the moon with the bronze.”
Boudia had nothing but praise for Daley, whose father died of brain cancer at age 40 last year.
“Tom Daley dove absolutely amazing,” Boudia said. “In front of a home crowd, this kid had so much pressure on him, and he stepped up to the occasion, got a bronze medal and made his country so proud.”
Daley was actually awarded a mulligan in the opening round of the final when his coach filed a protest saying his diver was distracted by flashing cameras in the stands. A FINA judge allowed the protest and Daley was allowed to do his dive over. He raised his score from 75.60 points to 91.80 on his back 2 ½ somersault with 2 ½ twists.
The U.S. finished second in medals in diving with four, signaling a resurgence in USA Diving that has been dormant for years. Boudia also won a bronze with Nick McCrory on platform synchro; Kris Ipsen and Troy Dumais took a bronze on 3-meter synchro and Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant won a silver in 3-meter synchro.
“It’s massive, it’s a massive step forward,” said Steve Foley, the high performance director for USA Diving. “I hope we can take it forward with a little momentum and hopefully build on it for Rio.”
McCrory, the other U.S. diver to final in his Olympic debut, finished ninth with 505.40 points.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham of Australia failed to advance into the final after missing his last semifinal dive.
Michael Phelps is about to improve his stroke and it’s not in swimming. The 22-time Olympic medalist has been signed for the upcoming season of Golf Channel’s The Haney Project. The show, hosted by Hank Haney, former coach of Tiger Woods, will follow Phelps around over the course of the season as he attempts to conquer some of the world’s greatest golf courses. “As I enter this next chapter of my life, I think I will be able to shift my competitiveness to anything I put my mind to,” Phelps said. “And golf is one of the things I want to focus on. I want to play all the world’s great golf courses, but I’d like to play them well.” Past seasons have featured Charles Barkley, Ray Romano, Rush Limbaugh, Sugar Ray Leonard and Adam Levine. Production begins next month. Haney said it would likely be an eight-part series…Ironically, golf makes its debut at the Olympics at Rio 2016. Maybe Phelps will be back, only in a different sport…Now that Missy Franklin has been able to take a breath, the 17-year-old is considering her college and pro options in swimming. “We’ll definitely have to sit down and talk about it,” Franklin said. “I think that my experience here has done two very different things for my decision. I think it’s made my decision a lot more difficult because I’ve been able to see the benefits and everything and how people get these sponsorships; what it’s like for them and how much fun they are having and seeing those and kind of wanting that, wanting to be a part of it and having it be so hard to turn it down.” Franklin will be a senior at Regis Jesuit High School when she returns to Aurora, Colo.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com