David Boudia’s three very different Olympic experiences. Eight years can make a whole lot of difference.
In 2008 U.S. platform diver David Boudia went to the Olympics in Beijing with high hopes that he would achieve all his dreams of wealth and success but left with only depression after finishing 10th.
"For much of my life, I bowed at the feet of gods fashioned of gold, silver and bronze," David admits on his website. "I bought into the American dream of health, wealth and success as a kid and I thought that was all I wanted. I thought the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 would deliver this to me.
"But the Olympics didn't supply me with any joy. They didn't provide the happiness that I thought they were going to bring. [Not medalling] was like a punch in the gut. My world was completely shaken."
[Hearing the truth] was like plugs popping out of my earsIn his book Greater than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption David reveals what made all the difference in his life and took him from failure and suicidal thoughts, to the *success and satisfaction he enjoys today – his faith.
"I met Jesus in college in 2009 when I was severely depressed and it changed my perspective dramatically, and more and more as I dove into God's Word (the Bible)," he says.
His diving coach, Adam Soldati, and Adam's wife were instrumental in helping David to understand what being a Christian meant.
"I was drinking heavily by my sophomore year and one Saturday in the fall it all came to a breaking point. I was so hungover that I couldn't even get out of bed to go to a football game. My life was in chaos," he admits.
David texted his coach, Adam, who invited him around. Instead of giving David a quick answer that would fix what was happening in his life, Adam gave him Jesus instead.
"Adam and his wife began sharing the gospel with me – the good news that though I was a sinner, and though my personal problems were a direct result of my rebellion against a holy God to whom I was accountable, the Lord nevertheless loved me and had done everything necessary to secure my salvation. God himself came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to live a sinless life and die a gruesome death on the cross – taking my sin upon himself and bearing God's wrath against it for me. Christ then rose from the dead, conquering sin and hell and Satan forever. They told me what the purpose of the cross was and what Christianity was all about.
"As I sat in their rocking chair listening to them talk, it was like plugs popping out of my ears.
"I don't think I was converted that night. I don't think I fully understood what my sin was. I still don't, for that matter. But from the time they talked to me that Saturday, I was broken over my sin. I felt filthy, and ultimately cried out to God for his forgiveness."
Initially, David's conversion had a detrimental effect on his diving. His sport seemed so insignificant and unimportant compared to the weighty, eternal matters he was investigating. But after a while he realized that God had given him his athletic ability and platform for a specific reason – and that was to bring God glory.
"Because of the work that Christ had done in my heart, my diving was transformed. I continued to develop my skills, and in 2012 I once again made the Olympic team. This time, however, things were different. I didn't go to the London Olympics desperately seeking to win a gold medal. I went to London desperately seeking to honour the Lord, to minister to my teammates and fellow competitors, and to enjoy the experience for what it was."
And strangely enough, with that as his new focus, God saw fit to give David the one thing he had dreamt of since he was seven – an Olympic gold medal. He won in the men's 10m platform dive, the first American to win the event in 24 years.
And last year in Rio, where he won two more medals, four years on from his London success, David's life was different again after having married, had a daughter, Dakoda, and written his book about how faith is infinitely more satisfying than worldly success and the American dream.
What a lot of difference a few years can make!
No one knows where they will be eight years from now or how God can turn their lives around, that is why the Bible encourages us to call on God while it is "today" as only He can give us "a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair". (Isaiah 61:3) ?
Greater than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption by David Boudia is available from Amazon