American divers David Boudia and Steele Johnson received silver medals Monday at the Rio Summer Olympic Games. They had finished second in synchronized 10-meter platform diving, losing to the Chinese team, but they were just as thrilled anyway.
In an interview with Kelli Stavast, an NBC correspondent, after the event, Boudia was asked, “David you came to Rio with a gold and bronze [medal] from London and a whole lot of pressure. What does it mean now to come her a medal at the synchron event?” Without flinching, he quickly responded.
“I just think that in the past that there was an enormous amount of pressure. I felt it. It was an identity crisis. When my mind is on this and thinking that I’m defined by this, my mind goes crazy. But we both know that our identity’s is on Christ and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive in front of Brazil and for the United States and it’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us.”
This is a sentiment that Steele echoed, as well.
For some, this exchange is was what many would expect to hear from David Boudia, an outspoken Christian, but he didn’t always feel this way. In a recent interview with Indy Star, Boudia explained how often athletes are portrayed as having “perfect lives.” In the fall of 2009, David says that he thought about quitting the sport altogether and possibly ending his life. In his new autobiography, Greater Than Gold, he wrote, “suicide wasn’t off the table as an option for me.”
The depression was partially fueled by his partying lifestyle he says. Smoking cigarettes and smoking pot became the norm.
“For me, this was like my god. It was something that I could control. Whatever I could do to feed myself and to make myself feel that good pleasure, that’s what I would do.”
“If I represent a good God,I need to be that visual representation of him all the time, not just when I feel like it.” #GreaterThanGold
— David Boudia (@davidboudia) July 12, 2016
With influence by his roommate and friends, Boudia became a Christian, but it wasn’t an easy transition for him. He was dating his now wife, Sonnie, at the time. The two dated and broke up twice, but by 2012, they were engaged. The two traveled to London for the Summer Games and Boudia found himself fueled by the outpouring of respect and honor he received from his fans. In David’s own words, he called the fame his “me monster,” which helped to lead him back to his smoking addiction and troubles with premarital counseling sessions, but it was all for good in the end.
“It was encouraging to watch,” Sonnie says. “I was growing in my own way, too. So God used those hard things to change me, and I’m thankful for that.”
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has had his own struggles with fame and drugs, as well, which has been widely documented. In a recent interview with ESPN, Phelps described his own dark days following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On his first day back home, a photo quickly circulated of Phelps smoking from a bong at a party that took place in South Carolina. He was suspended for three months, and Phelps began to mistrust everyone around him. The article reveals that after the 2009 world championships, Phelps began to smoke and drink more heavily and wanted to quit swimming.
Great story. Olympian Michael Phelps credits the Purpose Driven Life for saving his life. Was contemplating suicide. https://t.co/Nh9taQhUBi
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) August 6, 2016
“I had to go another four years. There was no other option,” says Michael. “I thought I could fake it. Just do a little bit and fake my way through it. And I almost did.”
According to the article, by the time 2012 rolled around, Phelps hated swimming as well as his coach, Bob Bowman, but that was all kept a secret. “We went into [London] like everything was under control. Yeah, right. It was all spin. Or PR,” Bowman says. “We’re very good, well-trained at PR. And honestly, for his future, that’s the way it had to be.” Phelps won six medals, with four of them being gold, but the two of them parted ways, with both retiring. But a year later, Phelps told Bowman that he wanted to come back after all. “I wanted no part,” Bowman says. “I didn’t want to go through that again.” However, the two reconciled and things looked better for a while.
Similar to Boudia’s story, Phelps found his identity tied with his performance as a swimmer and with no future Olympic Games to look forward to, he lost himself. “I didn’t give a s***,” Michael says. “I had no self-esteem. No self-worth. I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.”
Phelps didn’t actually try to kill himself, but he also did it anyway. In September 20, 2014, Phelps was pulled over and was given his second DUI arrest when he crossed over the double lines.
“When that happened, I was like, ‘That’s it — you’re never going to change,'” Bowman says. “And I was scared to death what the rest of his life was going to look like.”
Five days later, Phelps was in The Meadows rehab clinic. During the first five days of his stay, it was reported that he rarely left his room. He said it was the most scared that he had ever felt.
It was during this time that Michael was given a copy of Pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, from former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, and the book changed his life. He became known as “Preacher Mike,” as Phelps would share the lessons he learned from the book.
Phelps hasn’t had a drink since October, 2014. He says that he wants to move into business and work more with his water safety for children foundation.
“The swimming is fine — I’m glad for the swimming,” Bowman says. “But quite frankly, if he stops right now and never swims again but stays in this place as a person, I’d be thrilled.”
In addition to their spiritual insights, both Boudia and Phelps are new dads which just gives them more inspiration to keep their lives on track.
[Photos by AP Images]