Imagine looking over a cliff 33 feet in the air … and deciding to jump off.
Now imagine being told you have to do two and a half twists and two and a half somersaults before you land, oh, and by the way, do it without making a splash.
That’s men’s 10-meter platform diving. And in person, it’s as insane as it sounds. More insane perhaps.
American David Boudia won the gold medal Saturday night, beating out the heavily favored Chinese divers Qiu Bo (silver) and Lin Yue (fifth). British heartthrob Tom Daley won the bronze.
Boudia’s gold is the first by an American in the 10m platform since Greg Louganis.
Read that again.
No American man has stood atop the podium in the 10m platform since 1988. In fact, Americans have been shut out of diving gold completely since 2000 (Laura Wilkinson, women’s 10m platform).
More amazing: Boudia almost didn’t make the semifinal, let alone the final. Boudia was the 18th man to qualify in the preliminaries.
OUT OF 18.
Hey, you know what Gus the groundhog says: You gotta be in it to win it.
Once Friday was over, once Boudia escaped, he zoned in. In the semifinal, the American finished third. He was still well behind the two Chinese divers, but was a legitimate medal contender.
It just wasn’t supposed to be a gold medal.
But there Boudia was, .15 points out of gold medal position with one dive left. And it wasn’t even a Chinese diver he was trailing. It was Tom Daley.
The scores going into Round 6:
- Tom Daley: 468.20
- David Boudia: 468.05
- Qiu Bo: 468.05
For you few diving novices out there, there are only six rounds. Three divers, one dive left for each, .15 points separating them.
This moment … this electricity … is exactly why diving is an international phenomenon.
Daley was up first. He had the easiest of the three dives (Daley’s degree of difficulty on Dive 6 was 3.3, the other two contenders were attempting 3.6 dives), so he had to nail it.
And nail it he did. All 9s, 9.5s and one 10. A 90+ dive score, which meant both Bo and Boudia were going to have to do something special to beat him.
Boudia stepped up first. His dive: a back 2 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists pike … whatever that means.
The pro-Daley crowd hushed. Boudia climbed 33 feet into the air atop the platform. He took a protracted breath and …
I may not know anything about a back 2 1/2 somersault with 2 ½ twists pike, but as soon as Boudia ripped his entry, I knew he had crushed it. The Americans in the crowd exploded and joined the Brits in the torturous diving tradition of scoreboard staring.
You could cut the tension with a Speedo. Seconds felt like hours. And then …
A 102.60 (above 90 in diving is great, above 100 is exceptional). Boudia was as good as Daley on a tougher dive. He was in gold medal position with only one diver who could catch him: favorite Qiu Bo.
Bo’s dive was also a 3.6-degree of difficulty. So on a like-for-like dive, Bo had to be better than Boudia. He had to be almost perfect.
And he nearly was. (Can you be nearly almost perfect?)
Bo executed a great dive. Boudia gasped, the crowd quieted. Again, the entire Aquatics Centre stared at the scoreboard. And stared. And stared. Bo hit a really good dive. This was going to be close.
The judges finally issued their verdict: 100.80.
If math isn’t your thing, 100.80 wasn’t enough. China, a country that came into London expecting to sweep gold in all eight diving events, would have to settle for six (Ilya Zakharov of Russia won gold in the men’s 3m springboard).
David Boudia had done it. With everything on the line, with his Olympic campaign all hanging on one dive, Boudia came through and won gold.
It was as thrilling an event as I’ve ever seen in person. It had everything: tension, anticipation, exhilaration, drama. It was enough to turn yours truly, a complete novice, into a rabid diving fan.
That’s right, after Saturday night, I plan to dive head first off a 33-foot platform into this sport. I plan to consume every second of competitive diving that I possibly can.
Starting in 2016.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.