WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — David Boudia is diving right back into another Olympic chase.
The 28-year-old Texan pulled a surprise Tuesday by announcing he's coming back in hopes of making his fourth U.S. team.
Many thought Boudia called the news conference at Purdue, his alma mater, to say goodbye to the sport that turned him into an Olympic gold medalist and an international star. Instead, the three-time Olympian told reporters he'd been training with synchro partner Steele Johnson and other Boilermakers divers since mid-June and was prepared to go all the way to Tokyo in 2020.
"Teammates would call me grandpa, so in my mind I was thinking, 'maybe I should be done with this sport,'" Boudia said. "But when I look back on the last four years leading up to Rio, I saw a lot of missed opportunities where I could have been a better mentor for my teammates."
That's Boudia's motivation — to help teammates and other divers around the world.
But the decision was no sure bet.
Boudia acknowledged he was "mentally fatigued" before the 2016 Rio Games and needed a year away from the rigid training regimen to make a clear decision.
Even then, he wasn't sure if his wife, Sonnie, would be on board. That's when he consulted longtime coach Adam Soldati to come up with a three-year plan that would help Boudia cut weight, get in shape and be competitive enough to medal again in 2020.
"I needed to hear a lot of things from him. I needed to hear his purpose, what he was doing this for," Soldati said. "If he had said I don't feel satisfied or there's more to achieve, I'd have ended the conversation right there. But he wanted to do it No. 1 so he could provide for his family, and there's nothing wrong with that, and No. 2 because he saw the pieces where he could influence people."
Boudia made the decision seem every bit as natural as the twists and flips off that helped him become the 2012 Olympic platform champion.
At first, Boudia sounded like he was giving a retirement speech. He even posed for family photos with his wife, their oldest daughter, Dakoda, and three-week-old Mila.
But as he continued, Boudia's intentions became clear.
"Absolutely not," USA Diving CEO Lee Johnson said when asked if he was surprised. "Being around athletes like David, they have 'it.' They have that fire and some gas in the tank so I wasn't surprised at all."
Having Boudia, one of the most decorated divers in U.S. history, should give the Americans a huge boost.
His signature moment came when he upset the heavily favored Chinese divers to take gold in London. The win ended a 12-year Olympic drought for the USA Diving and a 20-year drought for the American men.
Boudia also added a bronze medal in 2012 platform synchro, shared the silver medal with Johnson in platform synchro in Rio and added the bronze in platform individual last summer, proving the old man of diving could still compete effectively against younger, sprier athletes.
He also owns four silver medals and one bronze from five world championship appearances. Boudia qualified for every U.S. national team since 2005, won 20 national titles and finished second at the world championships in 2013 and 2015 before taking a much-needed break after Rio that has helped return with a refreshing outlook.
Other divers revere Boudia for his charming demeanor and fiercely competitive intensity. Many even stop to watch Boudia, wishing they could come as close to perfection as Boudia sometimes did.
But the questions this time weren't about talent or passion. They were about commitment and the need to take care of his family.
"We all want to take the path of least resistance," Soldati said. "Leading into Rio, it was kind of like 'Well, maybe this is easier to be done with this.' And then you look at it from the other side and you say, 'Well, this isn't easier. It's different but it isn't easier.'"
Boudia saw it another way, though.
After writing a book and appearing as a judge on the reality television program "Splash," Boudia still had too much unfinished business.
"Being able to step away from the sport was the best thing I could have done, and I missed the relationships I had at the pool," Boudia said. "I just felt like this was what I was supposed to do."