US Olympic medalist challenges students to use their gifts, talents to point to Christ

David Boudia had big dreams — so big that they played themselves out on the stage of the Olympics. He’d trained for years for that dive and when he took it something happened.

He came up with a handful of medals that couldn’t fill his empty heart.

“Being in the Olympics was a dream of mine since I was a kid,” said Boudia, who tried out a number of sports before he landed on diving.

But when he did, he trained hard.

‘Is that it?’

He was USA Diving’s male athlete of the year in 2008, the year he made it to his first Olympic Games in Beijing.

He dived and he came home. And when he did, he thought — “Is that it?”

The little boy who had dreamed Olympic dreams found himself at the top of his game — and all he felt was emptiness, he said.

“I’ve tasted a lot of things that the world would say is satisfying,” said Boudia, who later won a gold and bronze medal in London in 2012 and silver and bronze medal in Rio in 2016. “I’ve tasted the fame and the wealth and I was never truly deeply satisfied by it.”

At first, after Beijing, he took that emptiness back with him to college at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and fell into greater depression. But one day during his sophomore year, the state of his heart hit him like a ton of bricks. He reached out to his diving coach, Adam Soldati, who along with his wife shared with Boudia about who God really was and what He could do in his life.

“I grew up going to church with my family but going to church was more like a chore to me and was more about being a moralistic person rather than a faithful person,” Boudia said.

Up until that point he’d seen the American dream as the place where he wanted to invest his life, but “pursuing this American dream was beginning to take control of my life and was over-promising and under-delivering every time,” he said.

So Boudia said he finally laid it all down and gave his life to Christ — the only One who would always satisfy.

“Pursuing your dreams without God will leave you with a longing for something more every time,” he said. “It may not be immediate but it will always come back and show you it is fleeting. Only God can fill that void.”

That’s the message he shares through his book, “Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption,” which he co-wrote with Tim Ellsworth, associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

‘Using his platform’

It’s also the message he wanted to share with students at the Pursue conference put on by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) on Feb. 17–18.

Chris Mills, state missionary with a focus on collegiate ministry for SBOM, said Boudia’s story resonates with the 2017 conference theme, “My Place in His Purpose.”

“He is literally using his platform as an Olympic diver to point others to Christ and share the hope that comes through Christ alone — not in fame, fortune or even a gold medal,” Mills said. “Our hope is that students heard his story and walked away challenged to use their gifts and talents to point to Christ.”

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