EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Ellsworth, editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations at Union University, is in London to cover the 2012 Olympics in tandem with Baptist Press’ London bureau. Baptist Press will publish features about Christian athletes in the Olympics, recap results of their competition and cover Baptist initiatives to share the Gospel during the Summer Games and among Londoners’ rich cultural milieu.
LONDON (BP) — David Boudia should have been happy.
At age 19, he competed in his first Olympics in Beijing. USA Diving’s male athlete of the year in 2008, Boudia was heading for what proved to be an immensely successful diving career at Purdue.
But the happiness was elusive.
“Throughout the journey through 2008, I was chasing after so many things that never lasted,” Boudia said. “At the end of the Olympic Games in 2008 I walked away and I looked around, and I was like, ‘All right, was that it?'”
His experience in this year’s Olympics in London promises to be different because Boudia is different. He became a Christian during his time at Purdue and has since discovered the joy in pursuing things that are eternal rather than temporary.
Boudia’s emptiness after the 2008 Olympics continued through his freshman year and into his sophomore year at Purdue. He jumped into the college party scene. He made a lot of friends and a lot of self-described “silly choices.”
One day, the depression got so severe he couldn’t even get out of bed.
“I woke up from a nap and felt like I’d hit a wall,” Boudia said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what my purpose was. I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I was feeling.”
A diving teammate at Purdue directed Boudia to his coach, of all people. Boudia called Adam Soldati and went over to his house, where he sat and listened to Soldati and his wife Kimiko talk about the Lord.
Soldati said the hopelessness he saw in Boudia is common among elite athletes.
“They’re grabbing onto and they’re holding onto their sport to ultimately define them, to give them a sense of identity,” Soldati said. “God has put that in us to run after and to seek satisfaction, but ultimately that’s going to be found in His son Jesus, period.”
The Soldatis told Boudia that God created the world, but that men rebelled against Him and tried to find satisfaction in everything except Him. They told him how God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear the punishment for people’s sins and rose again from the dead.
“We just gave him the Gospel,” Soldati said.
They asked Boudia a lot of questions, trying to get him to understand what was going on in his heart. They tried to get him to see what he was chasing after, and where he was trying to find happiness and satisfaction. They also explained to him the cost involved in becoming a Christian.
Boudia listened, and he kept listening. Over the next several days, he continued to meet with Soldati, who continued to share the Bible with him. Boudia began to read the Bible for himself. A few weeks later, he made a profession of faith and was baptized. He’s now a member of Faith Church in Lafayette, Ind.
The conversion marked a distinct shift in Boudia’s life. He’s always been prone to frustration when his diving hasn’t been perfect. Now he’s learning how to take his thoughts captive when he gets frustrated. He’s discovered how much he needs to repent of sin as it relates to his diving and practicing.
Instead of being obsessed with his own performance, Boudia has changed his focus to others. He said his top goal heading into his Olympic competition (he will compete in the 10-meter and synchronized 10-meter events) is to love God and love others.
“Whatever happens at the end of this Olympic Games is completely out of my control,” Boudia said. “God is totally sovereign over everything.
“It’s such a radical change,” he continued. “I’ve known these competitors from around the world, and they’ve known what I’ve done and how I acted throughout the years before I met Christ. The next thing they know, here’s David talking about Jesus or saying ‘Praise God’ or something like that, and they definitely notice.”
Soldati has certainly seen the change in Boudia’s life.
“He’s just come so far, and God has grown him,” Soldati said. “He’s at such a different place right now than he was four years ago.”