Four Purdue divers will travel to South Korea to represent the United States at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships.
On July 12, the World Aquatics Championships will begin in Gwangju, South Korea. Former Boilermakers and Olympic medalists David Boudia and Steele Johnson will accompany current student-athletes Ben Bramley and Brandon Loschiavo as members of the U.S. diving team.
Boudia, who recently announced his return to diving in the hopes of competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will look to qualify for the summer games during his time in South Korea.
“This is the first opportunity for the United States to qualify diving Olympic spots for Tokyo next year,” Boudia said Thursday. “My objective is to be top 12 at this World Championship, and that will secure a spot for the event that I’m competing in.”
In the past, Boudia’s main event was the platform dive, however, since returning to the sport, he has transitioned to a new event.
“What’s different this time around is that I’m doing it on a 3-meter (board),” Boudia said. “I’d been doing the platform since 2004, and so, I did it so much that it became more like a chore. The 3-meter springboard brought a new energy and I enjoy coming to practice now.”
Boudia suffered a concussion this past year, which played a large part in why he made the switch to the 3-meter board. According to Boudia, he began to feel anxiety on the 10-meter platform.
“I now realize after 15 years up there," he said, "that it is pretty scary.”
Despite this, Boudia is optimistic about the new challenge he faces with the 3-meter springboard.
“I’m actually feeling a lot more hopeful than I did at this time last year,” Boudia said. “Going into this event, things are sharpening up a lot quicker than I thought they would be, and I think we’re set up for a good World Championships, but even better for Tokyo next year.”
Steele Johnson, Boudia’s diving partner in the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, will also compete in the 2019 World Championships. Johnson, who graduated from Purdue in May, is eager to return to competition after working his way back from an injury.
“I think just being back in the pool is motivation enough,” Johnson said. “I was out for almost a year because of two foot surgeries, and I didn’t know when I would come back or how I would do it.”
Johnson said he began jumping off the platforms in late April, leaving him only three weeks to prepare for the national championships. Johnson said his expectations at Nationals were low, as he had only been able to practice for such a short period of time.
Despite his return, Johnson is still confined to an ankle brace when he isn’t on the diving board. “It’s a slow process, and I just have to be OK with wearing an ankle brace, probably for the next year.”
Johnson said he spends anywhere from an hour to two hours before every practice, doing different exercises to get his foot ready. It’s this extra work that Johnson believes is helping him come back stronger.
Johnson believes the World Championships offer him the opportunity to get back into competition. But he doesn’t think it will make or break his hope to compete in the 2020 Olympics.
“This year is important in qualifying spots (for the Olympics), but we also can qualify spots in February at the Olympic Test Event, so I’m not going to get too caught up on results at this meet,” Johnson said. “While it is important to get qualified earlier, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.”
In this summer’s World Championships, Johnson will compete in the synchronized 10-meter dive, alongside current Boilermaker Ben Bramley. This is the same event in which Johnson won his silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic.
But this is Bramley’s first international competition since coming to Purdue in the fall. Johnson said he and Bramley joked early on about doing the event together.
Johnson said a bet was made, where if Bramley landed a particularly difficult dive, Johnson would do the synchronized 10-meter event with him at Nationals. Sure enough, Bramley did just that.
“It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in this pool,” Johnson said. “In that moment I realized this guy is a gamer. Ben, in that moment, proved he could step up in the moment, and it gave me an itch to do synchro with him.”
Also on campus training ahead of the 2019 World Championships is rising Purdue senior Brandon Loschiavo, who represented the U.S. diving team at last summer’s World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.
“Last year, I got the World Cup Final, and that was a huge thing for me,” Loschiavo said. “I had never been that far.”
Despite last year’s success, Loschiavo said he is looking to improve his mentality going into competitions.
“I didn’t know how to deal with all these super big competitors,” Loschiavo said. “I have to remember to stay in the game when I’m doing well, but also when I’m doing really poorly.”
Loschiavo will compete in the 10-meter platform dive at this summer’s world championship, the same event in which he won a Big Ten Championship his junior year.