LONDON A 12-year-old David Boudia stood on the 10-meter diving platform for the first time, terrified to plunge into the water below.
That's the equivalent of a three-story building. The fear was understandable.
"It took me the longest time. It took bribes from my mother," Boudia said. "It took so long for me to get over that fear, but it had to be done if I wanted to accomplish dreams."
Boudia doesn't have to dream anymore.
The 23-year-old U.S. diver unexpectedly won Olympic gold in the men's 10-meter platform event Saturday (Aug. 11). His 568.65 points edged China's Qui Bo (566.85 points) and Great Britain's Thomas Daley (556.95 points) to give the United States its first gold medal in men's diving since Greg Louganis in 1988.
"Just looking back on this journey, it's amazing to think where I was in 2008 to where I am now," Boudia told NBC's Al Michaels in a Sunday interview. "My faith is the most important thing in my life, and this is what's brought me through this 2012 Games."
The medal was Boudia's second of the Olympics, after he and Nick McCrory won bronze in the men's 10-meter synchronized diving event.
"The craziest thing is, I didn't watch the competition at all, so I had no idea where I was placed," Boudia told Michaels. "Going into my last dive, I had no idea it was as close as it was with the top three. I was just doing what I normally do in practice."
Boudia came up with his best dive of the competition when he needed it the most. Trailing hometown favorite Daley going into the final dive, Boudia posted a score of 102.6 to pass the British teenager. Qui's final dive wasn't enough to overtake Boudia.
Boudia almost missed out on the finals entirely. In the preliminary round, the top 18 divers out of 32 advance to the semifinals. Boudia squeaked into the next round, placing 18th overall. In an interview with NBC after that first round, Boudia described it as a "terrible prelim."
"The coolest thing about this is that I know that God is perfect and sovereign, and if I made it, great," Boudia said. "If I didn't, great. I was totally content if I was on the bubble or out."
Such language from Boudia is a relatively new development. After competing in the 2008 Olympics, Boudia went to Purdue University, where he quickly immersed himself in the college party scene. For his whole life, he had been pursuing athletic glory as the ultimate achievement.
But those pursuits proved hollow for Boudia, who became a Christian during college when his coach, Adam Soldati, led him to the Lord. Now instead of chasing glory for himself, Boudia only wants to chase glory for Christ.
"Whatever happens at the end of this Olympic Games is completely out of my control," Boudia said prior to the Olympics. "God is totally sovereign over everything.
"It's such a radical change," he said. "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."