The 14 hours after David Boudia qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics
David Boudia qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the synchronized 10m platform with diving partner Steele Johnson, who he’s known since they were kids. We caught up with the 2012 Olympic champion to ask whether qualifying for the Olympics ever becomes routine, if his daughter Dakoda really grasps what an accomplishment that feat is and how special it was to share it with his former carpool partner.
He’s also partnered with TD Ameritrade to mentor Jordan Windle, who is in fifth place after the semifinal of the individual platform event at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. Windle – who has been identified as a 2020 Tokyo Olympic hopeful – will attend the Rio Games to experience the environment and cheer on Team USA, which now includes Boudia.
First, congrats! I want to hear all about the past 12-14 hours. What was it like to see your name painted on the wall?
It was hard to believe. You wake up and it’s like the morning after, ‘What just happened?’ It was a pretty emotional night. Emotions were something I didn’t think would happen. These are my third Olympic Games. I’ve been around the block, so to say, but it was super special to share that with Steele Johnson. He was a mess and his family was a mess. It just made everyone realize how big of an achievement this was. Growing up as kids we trained at that pool in Indianapolis and we looked up at that wall with all these Olympic legends like Janet Evans, Michael Phelps and Lenny Krayzelburg and all these huge names and we wanted to be a part of that. Steele got his name on the wall last night and for the second time I was able to put my name up there. It’s raw, and it’s moments like these like the past two Olympics that I sometimes get numb to. It’s an awesome refresher to have something like that.
It seems like your family and Steele’s family had very different reactions.
Yes! That kind of comes along with it. This is my third Olympics; I’ve been to Beijing and then also London. I won Olympic gold in London and a bronze and so my family, they’ve been through that. They’ve been able to experience that and they know what those emotions are. Steele’s family, this was the first time they saw their kid make his dreams come true. Something that he’s been dreaming of for 12 years. The emotion from his immediate family’s faces was priceless and it was pretty amazing. I didn’t think I would get teary eyed or anything like that – I barely did on the podium. Maybe I tried to suppress it. I felt the emotions coming and I don’t know. It was special to do that with someone that you’ve trained with so hard for the past eight, 10 years.
Do you think [your daughter] Koda knows what’s going on?
No idea. My wife and I watched the broadcast last night to watch my dives and Koda afterwards was looking around like, not a clue. She was like, oh there’s dad. He was up there on the platform and now he’s down here holding me and people are all over. She, yea, she’s almost two. She’s still trying to figure out which one’s her right hand and left hand.
Do you have any insight you can share into Sunday [the men’s individual platform final at Trials]?
Sunday will be a dogfight. I didn’t think I would have to work as hard as I am at Olympic Trials with these two boys on my back. I have a 40-point lead but that doesn’t mean anything in diving sometimes. I know that Steele and David Dinsmore are gonna come in hungry and put their heart out on the line because this is what they’ve trained for so long. It’ll be an intense competition. It’s cool that the entire diving community – we’re all buds. Jordan Windle helped set up the last two divers and he’ll set up Steele and David and also myself. Jordan puts pressure on the other guys.
What are some of Jordan’s strengths and weaknesses?
It’s easier for me to look at weaknesses because I lack empathy and compassion, but my wife helps me grow in that. Obviously the weakness is experience. He just doesn’t have the experience like Steele or David or I have had on an international stage and he’s young. Rightfully so – I think that helps a lot. The moment you get into the huge competitions and you fail or you do well, those are the ones that help build your consistency, help build your confidence leading into that next competition. He’s just lacking that right now. But his strengths overpower that. Once he gets that experience under his belt he’s gonna be absolutely phenomenal. He just has that natural gift of knowing exactly where he is in the air and he has impeccable form. The kid knows how to put down a dive and do it without a splash.
Do you think that him being in Rio will expose him to some of the factors of an international competition?
Absolutely. Because the community is small, like I said, it’s cool that I can have kind of like a first-hand experience with what his career has looked like so far. He’s kinda got a little taste of that last year. We went to the world championships in Kazan [Russia] and he competed in the exhibition event. He was able to be at a world championship and really see that. Now, fast forward a year going to Rio, he’ll be able to watch and see exactly what goes on at a diving competition and see what his competitors are doing and see what the atmosphere is really like. As much as we like to stay that it’s just another competition, the competition gets built up. It’s magnificent. The cameras and the lights are on. There’s thousands and millions of people cheering you on. That’s something that can catch first-time Olympians off guard. If he’s able to be at his first Olympics just watching, then I think in 2020 it’s gonna be that much better for him.
Do you think the pressure is mounting for yourself as you look towards Rio or do you think it’s waning a little bit?
The pressure is always what your perspective is. This is the stepping stone, the Olympic Trials, is to Rio. Rio is obviously the ultimate goal. Pressure is what you make of it. If you think about it and dwell on it so much then I’m gonna be a mess. But I have such a huge support system around me that can help build my mentality going to Rio and take it one step at a time. I’m trying to think about it that way.
You’ve already had competitions at the venue.
Yes, I’ve already had two competitions at the venue before. It’ll be kinda like a home away from home for us. In 2007, I actually won gold at the Pan American Games with a former synchro partner and then we were there for the test event in February. We know the pool well. We know the city well. We know what to expect from the fans. And so it’ll be like a competition that we’ve had before, just on a bigger stage.
Hopefully it’s not pouring rain!
We’re expecting the worst. We’re expecting we’re gonna go in there and it’s gonna be down pouring during our finals. That’s what we hope, to be honest. We know Team USA is ready for that. We’ve done so many training trips and we’re prepared to dive in the rain and the cold. We’re ready for that.
How do you adjust for something like that?
It is pretty difficult. You’re in a sport where obviously it’s a water sport, but you need to be dry in order to grab your position and flip that many times. The rain just adds that little adverse factor. Ultimately you push it out of your brain. You say, this isn’t a factor whatsoever and I’m gonna step up on this 10m platform and I’m gonna do this dive the best that I’ve ever done for my country, for my teammates, for my family and for all the people that have been a part of this journey. You try to push it out and look at the motivators.
It seems like your international rivals have pretty much been the same as they were four years ago. Why do you think the field hasn’t seen any turnover?
There’s obviously another Chinese diver that’ll be added into it, but it just shows that these guys are really good. They know how to dive. They know they’ve been in situations where they can be in the Olympic Games and know that pressure. Like I said with Jordan, that experience is crucial. That’s why there hasn’t been much turnover. Because these guys are the best of the best. It’s not gonna be any different in Rio. My work’s gonna be cut out for me, but we know that. We’ve done everything we can to train for this moment and we’re excited for it.
Do you ever feel like you need to get in the YouTube game now that Steele’s been in it for a while and Tom Daley’s in it too?
They’re tying it down for me! They’re doing a great job. I don’t need to make any sort of entrance whatsoever. I’m just trying to keep up with the social media game myself. Like there’s so many platforms now! I think my favorite is Snapchat because I can just snap the fire out of my little girl and my teammates just love it. I’m gonna stick to what I know and let the pros do what they do on YouTube.
Does Koda have a favorite Snapchat filter?
She likes the dogs a lot because it’ll pop on her face and she sticks out her tongue and she licks it a lot. So the dog one is fun. Any time she can see herself she absolutely loves it.