In 2008, David Boudia was chasing fame - and potentially fortune - as he competed in his first Olympic Games in Beijing.
Now having matured four years, and after competing on the biggest stages at the international and collegiate levels, the 23-year-old diver is taking a different approach, one honed at Purdue. Although his understated goal in London is to medal - he'll compete in the 10-meter synchronized platform and 10-meter individual - he's not focused on the results this time around.
"When you start focusing on results, your mentality toward the competition will drastically change," said Boudia, who turned professional following his junior year in '11. "The focus going into competition isn't whether we can get on the podium or not. With our abilities inside the pool, and practicing, we definitely know that is possible. But what we need to think about is taking it one step at a time, one dive at a time, one competition at a time."
It's cliché, but a needed approach for Boudia. Four years ago, he might have gotten caught up in the moment, seeking a medal to end USA Diving's drought at the Games, which has now reached 12 years, and thinking of the possibilities that could come with it.
"I was 19-years old at the biggest spectacle of sports, the biggest stage you could be on at the Olympic Games," he said. "Just learning what I was chasing after in 2008, trying to get this medal and trying to get fame and recognition. That all deteriorates and never lasts. So I evaluated what that experience was like in 2008 and grew from it."
The growth came at Purdue. In his three competitive seasons as a Boilermaker - Boudia is 30 credits shy of graduation, but vows to get those remaining hours at Purdue - he won six NCAA Championships and was thrice NCAA Diver-of-the-Year. But he found his faith too, after reaching what he called a "breaking point" in 2009, and is recently engaged, to fellow Purdue student Sonnie Brand, whom he met around the same time.
The maturation has brought him peace as he enters his final weeks of preparation for the London Games later this month and early next.
"The (family's) little slogan this year (on T-shirts) is
'Journey redefined,'" said Purdue and USA diving coach Adam Soldati. "I think one of the biggest differences is that in '08 he was really chasing after a lot of things that he thought would bring him happiness and satisfaction, things like fame and glory, that kind of stuff. I think he realized after '08 that that doesn't satisfy.
"He has a redefined purpose and has realized that the gifts he's been given are a gift from God and he really wants to maximize those gifts for His glory and not his own."
That said, Boudia is an excellent candidate to end the Americans' medal drought. With Duke alum Nick McCrory, Boudia will compete in the synchro on July 30, and then he will battle McCrory and others in the individual competition on Aug. 10.
Boudia, a Noblesville, Ind., native, says his confidence is high, after finishing first in both events - by a wide margin - in the Olympic Trails earlier this month. And he was helped by a silver medal in the 2011 World Championship, in which he felt he got the attention of the judges, who now consider him an international contender.
He'll bring lofty goals to London.
"Obviously, you have to get real with yourself," Boudia said. "Bringing home an Olympic medal would be the ultimate achievement for my sport. I've pictured it so many times in my head, but six months ago was really when you had to take that goal, put it on a shelf, put it behind you and focus on baby steps. I'm going to continue to say that it's one step at a time. As much as you guys want me to talk about a Gold medal and what that would be like, it's not going to happen."
That's been a message Boudia brought into while under the guidance of Soldati, who's has always preached that preparation is important, because it's the only aspect of competition that is controllable.
"One of our slogans - and this is a quote from John Wooden - is 'If you focus on the things that you can not control, it will adversely affect the things that you can control,'" Soldati said. "The results are something we can't control. If we want to control the results, that means we need to control the judges and all the other competitors and there's so many factors we don't have control over. But what we can control is that we take our thoughts captive, every one of them. And we can channel those through and make sure they're going the appropriate places.
"We focus on what it is that we can do, so focusing on results is just a waste of energy. We need to focus on what we can control."
Boudia is ready for the challenge. In '08, he felt inexperienced, but still finished fifth in the synchro (with Thomas Finchum) and 10th in the individual.
"I said in 2008 - and I don't know how much I believed what I said - that it was just another competition," he said. "But in reality, in 2008, it wasn't; it was the Olympic Games. I was a first-time Olympian and was a deer-in-headlights.
"This time, I actually mean it. It really is just another competition. I'm going in with the same competitors, same judges, I've been to the facility before. Going one step at a time, as I've said always, is the key to what success may come."
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