US Diving 2012: America Is Missing David Boudia's Brilliance
This U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, held this week in Federal Way, Wash., aren't the preface to Olympic glory they once were in the days of Greg Louganis, Pat McCormick or Dorothy Poynton.
Team USA has won more diving gold medals than any other nation—by a comfortable margin—but thanks to China's recent dominance, precious few of those have come in the last quarter-century.
That trend will likely continue in London.
We Americans can be fickle when it comes to our Olympic sports. With so many contenders in so many disciplines, our focus tends to fall on those few athletes with legitimate gold medal aspirations.
And even among that set, our interest threshold can be brutally selective.
Eight golds gets our attention. But one?
You'll be lucky to nab three minutes on Today before Ann Curry cuts in with a segment on helicopter parents.
It's no surprise, then, that David Boudia isn't a household name.
Like the rest of America's diving contingent, he's light years behind the top Chinese athlete in his event. Teen sensation Qiu Bo has dominated the 10-meter platform over the past two years and, barring some unforeseen calamity, should run away with the Olympic title.
Unlike the rest of America's diving contingent, Boudia could well be the world's second-best athlete in his event.
You're yawning, I know. This is America, after all. Second-best is a blemish. If you want a slice of our precious attention, you better do something spectacular.
But that's just it. David Boudia is spectacular—unequivocally so.
Still just 23, Boudia has won 16 national championships, medaled at consecutive World Championships and competed in three Olympic Trials.
At the 2011 FINA World Championships, Boudia took silver on the 10-meter platform, becoming the first American male since 1986 to medal at the Worlds in that event.
The man who won that last medal? Greg Louganis.
David Boudia might be the best American platform diver of the last quarter-century—the best since "The Greatest"—and his country doesn't seem to care.
Our Pavlovian disinterest in any Olympic athlete with the stink of silver precludes us from caring.
So, I'll make this plea brief.
Care about David Boudia. Watch him at Trials this week and again in London as he scraps for the podium. Recognize his talent and understand the odds he's overcome to make it this far.
American divers in the modern era simply don't do what David Boudia has done.
Indeed it's been 16 long years since the late Mark Lenzi captured America's last male diving medal—and another four years since a U.S. man won anything at 10 meters.
David Boudia has history in his sights.
I only hope he's in yours.
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