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Olympics: U.S. diver abandons chase of fame, pursues Christ

RIO DE JANEIRO (BP) — Diver David Boudia had accomplished his life’s dream when he captured a gold medal in the men’s 10-meter platform competition at the 2012 Olympics in London.

He soon learned how small and inconsequential that medal actually was.

“My biggest issue was my continued belief in the lie I had started listening to as a child — that the gold medal would be all satisfying,” Boudia writes in his book “Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption,” published this year by Thomas Nelson. “Even though I was a Christian, and even though I had gone to the London Olympics with a proper perspective on my purpose, I began to lose sight of that in the days that followed.”

Boudia will make his third Olympic appearance Aug. 8 when he competes in the men’s 10-meter synchro event with his teammate Steele Johnson. Boudia won bronze in that event in 2012 with Nick McCrory. A few days later, he’ll defend his gold medal — the first U.S. gold in the men’s 10-meter since Greg Louganis in 1988.

Boudia’s Olympic journey began as a teenager in Beijing in 2008 when he was consumed with a desire for fame and recognition. His disappointing and medal-less performance that year plunged him into a downward spiral of despair and hopelessness that only reversed when he became a Christian as a sophomore in college. His coach, Adam Soldati, and Soldati’s wife Kimiko played an instrumental role in leading Boudia to Christ.

So when he competed in London, he went with an outlook that was “transformed and redeemed,” he writes, “and I saw the Olympics as an opportunity to display God’s love to a lost and broken world.”

Winning the gold medal gave Boudia ample opportunity to share his testimony, he writes. But when he returned home, even though he knew the medal wouldn’t bring ultimate satisfaction, a “part of” him “still hoped it would.”

He got a taste of the celebrity lifestyle after London, with lots of people recognizing him and making demands on his time. Along with that, he found himself becoming embittered and jaded.

“The Olympics and the success I had there were an immense challenge and a threat to my spiritual well-being,” Boudia writes. “The ‘me’ monster inside me is constantly fed in that environment of fame and glory, and I let my guard down, thinking I was strong enough to battle it on my own without God’s help in the days after the Olympics.”

Boudia credits his church, Faith West in West Lafayette, Ind., with helping him struggle against self-centeredness.

“We hold each other accountable,” he writes. “We ask difficult and probing questions of each other. We are growing together in Christ, and that kind of environment has been responsible for much of my growth.”

Boudia spoke at the church July 10, addressing how Christians can share their testimonies. He told how the Lord saved him and gave him a more satisfying purpose than the fleeting fame he once chased. Christians should love others by engaging them in Gospel conversations and ultimately pointing them to Christ, he said.

“When we have the Gospel in our lives, then we are free to love this world because of our relationship with Him,” Boudia said. “The Gospel is as much needed for salvation as it is daily in the life of a believer.”

Boudia enters competition in Rio a different man than he was in London. He’s now married to his wife Sonnie, and they have a daughter, Koda. While he hopes to add to his collection of medals, he’s much more concerned with being a visible representation of the invisible God than he is in collecting more hardware.

“For much of my life, my heart was consumed with the earthly treasures that did not and could not satisfy the deepest longings of my soul,” he writes. “The ultimate satisfaction and joy in life is much greater than gold: it’s found in those treasures in Christ that last forever.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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