Nick McCrory can nail an armstand double back somersault with 1 ½ twists in competition from a platform located 10 meters above the pool.

Turns out the Duke diver and Olympic hopeful is equally good at performing in a multivariable calculus class, which he described as “the same as basic calculus but just a little bit harder and in three dimensions.”

Q&A with David Boudia
Three-time NCAA Diver of the Year David Boudia turned pro in April 2011, forgoing his final year of college eligibility at Purdue to focus on training for the 2012 Olympic Games. Boudia, a 2008 Olympian, partners with Nick McCrory in the men’s 10-meter synchronized platform. He talked to about the student-athlete experience.
Q: What was your favorite part about winning an NCAA championship?
A: NCAAs a really special event because it’s not like, you know, Team USA when you go overseas. You know you’re representing your school so the Purdue Boilermakers, black and gold, you have thousands of people over at Purdue just cheering you on. It’s a really tight knit family so it’s really special to do something like that in the NCAAs.
Q: So you competed in the 2008 Olympic Games and then went to college. Why was being a student-athlete something that you really wanted to do?
A: Being a student-athlete was definitely something that I wanted and needed to do. I knew that my education was really important, that I needed to have a good foundation in the education department because, you know, diving is not going to last forever so I needed to have something that I can fall back on.
Q: How important is it for you to finish the degree you started at Purdue?
A: Finishing my degree at Purdue is extremely important because, you know, that’s my foundation, that’s what I’m going to be needing to do after 2016 in Rio. So, you know, having that finish and having that degree that says I graduated from one of the best universities in the United States is definitely going to be a good accomplishment.
Q: What steps are you currently taking now to finish that degree?
A: The steps I’m taking to finish that degree right now is I’m slowly trying to get it done. I did two correspondence classes online this semester because of the hectic travel schedule but as soon as London is done in August I’ll go back to finish 15 credits and then 15 in the spring semester and then I’ll be completely finished.

A math major with pre-med aspirations, how McCrory performs the first skill this week at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Diving in Federal Way, Wash., will determine if he will spend the summer in London.

McCrory is competing in the men’s 10-meter platform and the men’s 10-meter synchronized platform with diving partner David Boudia. The two divers with the highest scores in the 10-meter platform and the team with the highest cumulative score in the synchronized event will head to London.

“To have everything in your sport culminating at once and all the hard work I’ve been putting in, it’s really an exciting time,” he said.

In his first two seasons at Duke, McCrory won national titles in the men’s platform competition. The Duke academic staff worked with McCrory to balance his load, making it possible for him to focus solely on training and meets during the 2011-12 academic year.

McCrory, an ACC All-Academic Team and ACC Academic Honor Roll honoree, will return to class at Duke in the fall and is on track to graduate in 2014. And yes, he’s looking forward to another challenging semester in the classroom.

“I’m having to take two math classes and then also a biology class because I want to finish up my pre-med stuff,” McCrory said, a wry smile on his face. “So I’m kind of dreading that, but it will make my spring semester a little easier and I’ll be able to be more relaxed when it comes time for NCAAs.”

If anyone can understand the balance between school and sport, it’s his partner. Boudia finished 10th in platform and fifth in the synchro event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing before heading to Purdue. He won multiple diving titles as a Boilermaker before turning pro after his junior season, not including a runner up finish to McCrory in the platform competition at the 2011 NCAA Championships.

Boudia took correspondence courses this year and plans to finish his degree.

“It’s a very special moment in someone’s life when they go to the Olympic Games and you want to be able to enjoy that moment, but we also know that there’s life after the Olympics,” Boudia said. “That is something that’s really special about student-athletes; that they take a lot of care on their academic side, too.”

Last fall, McCrory increased his training volume, making a few trips to West Lafayette, Ind., to train with Boudia, who also returned the favor by traveling to the Duke campus.

It was a different pace than during the spring semester of McCrory’s sophomore year, when was competing collegiately and internationally while tackling a course load that included the aforementioned calculus class, which he liked because of the visual element involved.

“It taught me a lot about focusing when I’m at school and doing my work as well as making good use of my time while I’m on the road and traveling,” McCrory said.

Last summer, Boudia and McCrory finished fifth at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Winning gold in Mexico and a silver in Russia, they medaled together at two of the four stops on the 2012 FINA Diving World Series.

Although he has not medaled as an individual in international competition, McCrory finished fourth with a career-best international score at a meet in Beijing in March.

“Nick has cat-like aerial senses and has developed into one of the world’s elite platform divers,” said Steve Foley, high performance director for USA Diving.

Born in Durham, N.C., McCrory attended East Chapel Hill High and grew up in house divided with one parent a Duke fan and the other a North Carolina fan.

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Blue Devils diving coach Drew Johansen, also one of the U.S. national team coaches, knew McCrory as a pre-teen phenom. Johansen started coaching him at the club level at age 16 as McCrory was heading into his junior year of high school.

In practice, when McCrory would do a dive and Johansen proclaimed it as a 9 or 9 1/2, the immediate question was why wasn’t it a ‘10’ and how can it be made a ‘10.’

“He’s wanted to push the edge his whole career since I’ve known him to be not just the best and win but perform at the highest level he can,” said Johansen, who McCrory credits for his technical progress. “Through that, he’s able to overcome fear and perform under the big lights and produce the high marks when it counts.”

But don’t let that perfectionism define McCrory as a person. While focused on his Olympic training, McCrory also spent time working at Durham Regional Hospital. He has been active in Little People of America with his younger brother, Lucas.  

“He cares about every person on the planet and every person on this team,” Johansen said. “He’s a very genuine young man.”

McCrory, who finished fourth individually at the 2008 Olympic Trials, said he has loved the sport of diving from the day he started. He credits former coach Nunzio Esposto, a former diver and a coach at North Carolina, for believing in him early on.

“Even when I started diving when I was 8 and 9, he would tell me, ‘Nick, you’re going to go to the Olympics someday,’ ” McCrory said. “So it’s something that I’ve been hearing for a long time.”

McCrory could be the second member of his family to medal in an Olympic Games. His uncle, Gordon Downie, swam for Great Britain in the 1976 Olympics, winning a relay bronze medal.