David Boudia

USOC's "stewardship": how you do it

It's a fact that the U.S. Olympic team won the overall medals count at both the 2012 London Games, with 104, and 2010 Vancouver Games, with 37. There is no federal sports ministry in the United States. Unlike virtually every other country in the world, the U.S. Olympic team is on its own. Congress set it up that way, in 1978. It said the USOC would have to raise all its own money. Then the USOC figures how to best dole it out.

A USOC report made public Tuesday underscores the keys to the Vancouver and London success: revenues and program spending are up, direct support to athletes increasingly significant and administrative expenses accounted for a mere eight percent of the budget.

The document, entitled "Stewardship Report," compiles a series of facts and figures available in other USOC materials -- say, for instance, multiple years of USOC tax filings -- and neatly wraps them into a colorful 24-page brochure.

U.S. diver David Boudia celebrates his gold-medal platform win in London // photo Getty Images

As USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, "It's a way for us to continue to tell our story."

There's humility in calling it a "Stewardship Report," of course. That theme is consistent with the leadership of chief executive Scott Blackmun and board chairman Larry Probst, who have stressed the so-called Olympic values and organizational goals over any cult of personality.

In its graphs and bar charts, all markedly filled with upward trends, the report also highlights the stability and international outreach efforts that Blackmun and Probst have brought to the USOC, including the resolution last year of a longstanding revenue dispute with the International Olympic Committee over certain television and marketing rights.

That has opened the door to a potential 2024 Summer or 2026 Winter Games bid from the United States, most likely 2024.

It must be noted that the USOC issued this report for its own reasons: it's essentially a one-stop document.

And though the USOC certainly did not intend to raise this question, it's only reasonable: one might wonder why, when there has been so much focus on the USOC from so many quarters over so many years, a considerable amount of that focus critical, some of that criticism on the mark but some of it fantastically misguided, other national Olympic committees aren't, in the interest of transparency, producing the same or a similar report?

Why nothing like it from, say, Germany? France? Britain? Better yet, Russia? Or China?

Indeed, why isn't it best-practice that every Olympic committee, or at least every national Olympic committee of consequence of the more than 200 worldwide, not only be obliged to produce such a report but also -- just like the USOC -- make it public?

In Olympic jargon, a four-year cycle is called a quadrennium, or quad. Over the 2009-12 quad, USOC revenues totaled $733 million, against expenditures of $675 million.

Administrative costs: $53 million, or eight percent.

Nearly $568 million, or 84 percent, went to U.S. athletes and national governing bodies through direct support and programming, according to the report.

Of that roughly $568 million, $218 million, or about 38 percent, was direct support -- meaning cash grants or benefits such as health insurance, medical services or tuition.

Another $274 million, about 48 percent, went for what the USOC calls "sport programming" -- high-performance support programs as well as funding for its Paralympic efforts and three training centers. Those centers are located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Chula Vista, Calif.; and Lake Placid, N.Y.

The balance, $76 million, roughly 13 percent, was spent on programs such as international relations, communications and other initiatives.

The report notes that direct athlete funding nearly doubled over the 2009-12 quad, to $71.3 million, from the 2001-04 quad, when it was $38.2 million. Support to national governing bodies, which had been $144.7 million in the 2001-04 quad, dipped to $134.7 million in 05-08 but climbed back to $146.3 million in 09-12.

Obviously, this funding produced results in Vancouver and London. It also has drawn critics. Here's why:

The USOC now divides sports into three categories -- foundation, medal-opportunity and development.

"Foundation" sports are those such as track and field, swimming and skiing. These sports are defined as those with a tradition of winning multiple medals; they have a strong sports infrastructure and a development pipeline.

If you are an athlete in one of these sports, as the report notes, "direct support is strategically allocated to give the number of American athletes the opportunity to reach the podium."

In London, the swim team won 31 medals, the track team 29. In Vancouver, the ski team won 21 of the 37.

"Medal-opportunity" sports are those such as diving, archery and boxing. In London, all three came up big -- diving for sure, including David Boudia's platform gold, and even boxing, in which U.S. women won medals. In Sochi next February, biathlon has been targeted as a medal opportunity even though the U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in the sport; Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, N.Y., won a silver in the 20-kilometer individual event at the 2013 world championships.

Then there are the "development" sports, which for now include the likes of canoe/kayak, weightlifting and table tennis. As the report notes, sports "with strong track records and international success receive a higher proportion of the available funds (75 percent in the 2009-2012 quadrennium). The more that U.S. athletes earn medals, the more resources the USOC is able to generate."

Which of course begs the question: if you don't have the money to win in ping-pong, how are you supposed to win in ping-pong to beat the Chinese, so you can get more money from the USOC to win in ping-pong?

Switching gears, the report notes the obvious revenue point -- that broadcast rights make up the largest chunk, 37 percent, $272 million, of the $733 million.

Domestic sponsors and licensed merchandise come next, at $183 million, 25 percent.

Worldwide sponsors rank third, at $124 million, 17 percent, with everything else in single-digit percentages.

What's also abundantly clear is the largely untapped revenue stream that awaits the USOC, if it could ever figure out how -- major gifts account for a mere 4 percent, just $32 million.

A Sports Business Journal report Monday said the USOC plans to create a new foundation with the aim of raising $35 million in the coming years, Blackmun saying in the story he intends to spend half his time this year on the effort.

Building the foundation and identifying a potential 2024 bid city are his two top priorities, Blackmun also said in that story.


David Boudia's history-making platform silver

SHANGHAI -- Any championship athlete knows that delivering peak performance is about achieving a state of calm excitement. That is, it's simply telling your body to do what you know it can do, because you've done it thousands of times before in practice. The trick is the "simply" part. If it really was so simple, everyone could do it. It's not, of course, and that's what separates champions from the rest of us. That's particularly the case in a sport such as diving, and all the more so in platform diving, where you throw your body into the air from a ledge 10 meters, or roughly 30 feet, up.

The moment of championship calm and grace that everyone knew David Boudia had in him finally arrived Saturday in Shanghai. He absolutely nailed the fifth of sixth dives in his program. That propelled him up the leader board, all the way up to second. But he didn't get all caught up in the moment. He thought, oh, good. Then he went out and hit his last dive, too.

David Boudia's silver turned out to be the first medal won by an American male in 25 years at the FINA world championships. No American had won on the 10-meter board since 1986, when Greg Louganis won gold and Bruce Kimball bronze.

China's Qui Bo won gold, with 585.45 points. Boudia finished with 544.25. Germany's Sascha Klein was third, with 534.5. American Nick McCrory finished sixth, with 501.65.

Louganis, in an e-mail, wrote that he had challenged Boudia last year to "leave the pack," adding, "he is now putting that belief in himself to do just that." Louganis also wrote that he was "so proud" and predicted Boudia would have "great opportunities ahead."

Overall, there were 10 gold medals up for grabs in the diving events here in Shanghai.

The Chinese won all 10.

Obviously, they dominate the sport.

Next year, at the London Olympics, they're going to win most of the medals. That's so predictable it's even now all but fact.

Nonetheless, there's opportunity. Intriguingly, the Chinese are worried. Witness this revealing comment Sunday in the English-language China Daily newspaper from Zhou Jihong, the Chinese dive team leader:

"I am really happy to achieve that sweep but I still feel worried. Our opponents have become stronger in technique. We have to toughen up mentally."

One of the reasons they are worried is that David Boudia won silver. That's legitimately fact, too.

The Americans haven't won an Olympic medal since Laura Wilkinson, on the platform in Sydney in 2000. Even so, they were in the hunt here in several disciplines -- but only Boudia, on the final day of the diving competition, broke through.

To see the arc of Boudia's career is to witness steady progression and maturity. It's not unexpected. He has been diving for a long time now. He's now 22 -- and, at Purdue, was named the 2011 Big Ten athlete of the year.

Got that, all you football studs? David Boudia is the Big Ten man of the year.

Boudia finished 23rd in 2007 on the platform at the 2007 world championships; in 2009, he finished sixth.

At the 2007 and 2009 worlds, respectively, he won bronze and silver in the synchronized 10-meter events. At the 2008 FINA World Cup, he won bronze.

He came to these 2011 worlds with his coach, Adam Soldati, mindful that the ability to compete at an occasion such as the world championships can be viewed one of two ways.

You can graft it with all kinds of artificial pressure.

Or -- both Soldati and Boudia are animated by a solid Christian faith -- you can view the worlds as a gift, a chance "to feel alive to feel awesome moments," as Soldati put it.

Soldati also likes to say that the point of diving is to hit it, not to miss it.

That fifth dive, a back 3 1/2 pike, earned Boudia 9.5s from all seven judges.

"Once the competition started," Boudia said, "I've never felt so relaxed in my entire life. Sitting with Adam, we were just joking around like we do in practice. We didn't make a big deal like this was the world championships or anything. I didn't make a big deal of anything. I took it one thing at a time. I didn't get ahead of myself. I didn't get caught up in the environment. It was cool.

"… After that fifth round, I was excited but immediately I hit that switch. I thought, I have one more dive. I thought, 'You hit that great dive but you have more to go. So let's go.' "

He followed up with a rock-steady back 2 1/2 with 2 1/2 twists. You dive to hit it, not miss it.

David Boudia has been on the international circuit since he was 15. These championships, he said, were the first when he had the perspective to look around  the pool deck and see how anxious so many of his other competitors could be, and for what?

"I could see how nervous they were. I could tell when they were diving if they were being cautious. When I was in competition, even in synchro, I could see how they were nervous. I was, like, why do you need to get so nervous? It was like an epiphany. After seven years of competition on the world stage, I controlled my body and it was -- it was like amazing."

Asked if he thought that bodes well for next year, he smiled a big smile, and said with an indisputable sense of calm excitement, "Absolutely."