David Boudia performs a dive in the finals of the men’s 10-meter platform at the U.S. Olympic diving trials in Indianapolis, Sunday. Boudia won the event for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.AP PHOTO
INDIANAPOLIS — David Boudia is heading to Beijing with the look of a potential star, beating close friend Thomas Finchum in a battle of 10s on the 10-meter platform at the U.S. Olympic diving trials Sunday.
The once-dominant American team is eager to make up for its medal shutout at Athens four years ago, and the 19-year-old Boudia could be just the one to take down the powerful Chinese.
“We’ve seen them get beat before,” Boudia said. “We know they can be beaten, which is good to know.”
He finished third in the Beijing pool during a World Cup meet in February. The U.S. men have not won an Olympic gold off the big tower since Greg Louganis won his second straight at the 1988 Seoul Games.
The teenager from suburban Indianapolis received perfect marks from six of the seven judges for his fourth attempt, a reverse 3 1/2 somersault tuck. He got five more 10s in the next-to-last round with an even tougher dive, the back 3 1/2 somersault from the pike position. Both times, he barely rippled the surface as his body sliced through the water.
Boudia finished with a total of 1642.20 points, while Finchum had to settle for runner-up with 1583.50 despite receiving 10s on three of his six dives.
“If I dive like I did this afternoon and keep training up to Beijing,” Boudia said, “I know it’s definitely possible to dethrone the Chinese and win gold.”
While only the winner is guaranteed an Olympic spot, the 18-year-old Finchum will almost certainly be joining the rival he calls “a brother” in Beijing. The rest of the team will be announced July 7 after a training camp in Knoxville, Tenn.
Finchum should get the other platform spot, and he and Boudia also are expected to be picked as the 10-meter synchro team.
“I’m proud of Thomas,” Boudia said. “I know he’s going to be right there beside me in Beijing.”
Finchum actually had the highest score at the trials, which was comprised of three rounds with six dives each. But Boudia came into the meet with a 65-point bonus for his third-place showing at the World Cup.
“If I couldn’t be the one on the team, I wanted it to be David,” Finchum said. “I know I can go out there and do all my dives for perfect 10s. You have to expect perfection.”
Finchum closed within 10.3 points of Boudia with his opening dive, earning three perfect 10s for an inward 3 1/2 somersault tuck.
But Boudia clinched it in the fourth round, when both went with the same dive, 307-C.
Finchum over-rotated ever so slightly on his entry, causing the dreaded splash and leaving him with scores ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 for a total of 74.80. Boudia heard the marks in the waiting area, then stepped out to perform a nearly flawless dive. Six 10s flashed across the scoreboard — a single 9.5 the only thing between him and perfection.
“I wanted to show the crowd what I can do,” said Boudia, who totaled 102 points for that dive and 108 on the next one. “That’s exactly what I did.”
The final event of the trials was the women’s 10-meter platform. Laura Wilkinson, the gold medalist in Sydney, was attempting to lock up her third trip to the Olympics and hold off 15-year-old phenom Haley Ishimatsu.