Phil Boggs (USA)
Honor Diver (1985)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1976 gold (springboard); PAN AMERICAN GAMES: 1975 silver (springboard); 1979 silver (springboard), bronze 9platform); AAU NATIONALS: 9 (Outdoor: 1973, 1975 3m springboard, 1977 3m springboard, platform; Indoor: 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977 3m springboard; WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1973 gold (springboard), 1975 gold (springboard), 1978 gold (springboard); 1978 FINA Prize Eminence Award.
Born in Akron, Ohio in December 1949, “Flip” died on the 4th of July 1990 at his home in Miami Florida. His otherwise indomitable spirit was overwhelmed by a 7-month bout with lymphoma. From an inauspicious beginning, Phil had an illustrious diving career during his brief lifetime and was considered by many to have been the dominant springboard diver of the 1970s.
At Firestone High School he dove well but not good enough to attract the eyes of the prominent college coaches. In retrospect, Ron O’Brien, Ohio State’s coach at the time, lamented, “Missing Phil Boggs was the biggest oversight of my college coaching career.” Tom Conway, Phil’s coach at FHS, got through to his old friend Bim Stults at Florida State University and said “we’ve got a champion here Bim, can you use him?” Bim replied “I’ll take your word for it. Send him down!” Phil had never competed on 3 meter prior to joining Bim at FSU, but it didn’t take him long to learn how. He was chosen all-American for his three varsity years and became NCAA 3 meter champ in 1971. Despite his successful collegiate accomplishments Phil was considerably disappointed with his failure to win the NAAUs that year. He was prepared to retire from the sport and pursue a business career. Luckily he listened to the council of his most respected elders in the diving world, Bim, Ron O’Brien, Micki King and Dick Smith. They were unanimous in advice and successful in convincing Phil to continue to develop his enormous natural abilities.
At their urging Phil entered the Officer Training Program of the USAir Force. Graduating with distinction, Phil was awarded the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs where Dick Smith was the diving coach. Phil blossomed under the old sage’s steady hand. He was one of the hardest working divers Dick had ever coached. He recalled a particularly crucial dilemma during Phil’s training, the solution to which revealed the essential resolve and integrity of this great competitor. “We came close to the point of no return about Phil and the triple twister,” recalled Dick. “It was the one serious inconsistency in his list. I gave him the option of replacing that dive with a surer one of less difficulty. He could go with the safety of the lesser dive or stick with the high degree twister and work harder to get it into shape.” Phil chose to work on the twister. Now there was no turning back.” His diligence and hard work gave him greater control over the dive. It powered him to victory in the 1972 Indoor Nationals. He missed it, however in the Parkridge Illinois Olympic Trials later that year and he did not go to Munich. Disappointed that he did not make the team, Phil gradually worked himself out of the doldrums and redoubled his efforts back at the Air Force Academy.
Toward the end of 1972 Dick Smith left the Academy to launch a new diving program at The Woodlands in Texas. Dick’s replacement was Olympic Champion USAF Lieutenant Micki King. (Micki was the first female to coach any sport at that institution.) “ Phil hungered for coaching. He set the pace for the academy divers at every workout. Although riveted to the job at hand during the training, his sense of humor laced the intensity of his performance and the divers never felt like we were working out” She recalled. In Micki’s opinion “Phil was the first diver to combine exceptional grace and beauty with acrobatic style.”
In 1973 Micki arranged military leave for Phil to accept an invitation from her old coach, Dick Kimball to train with the Kimball Divers in Brandon Florida. “Phil had a classic hurdle and when his board work was right he was unbelievable,” said Dick. “We introduced Phil to spotting and the belt and helped him learn back and reverse twisters. No matter how hard he worked, and he was the hardest working diver I have ever coached, he was never too tired nor too busy to help me with the other divers,” recalled Dick.
Phil won the NAAU 3 meter indoor and outdoor championships in 1973. He also won the 3-meter world games that year. In 1974 and 1975 he won both indoor and outdoor 3-meter national titles. He repeated winning the 3-meter world championships in 1975 garnering a second consecutive title in that event.
In 1976, after mastering his twisters and perfecting the techniques of spotting to help his spinning dives, Boggs completed 22 near perfect dives (preliminaries and finals) to win the 3-meter competition at the Olympic Trials. He went on to win the gold medal at the Olympic games. Commenting on Phil’s outstanding performance in Montreal, US Diving’s then-President Tom Gompf said “What a competitor! He did every dive 10 times each, the week of the Games. He was a diving machine! He kept his eyes on the scoreboard throughout the competition. He was supremely confident and all business during the event. He wanted to know where he stood at every point during the meet and he never let a judge’s decision shake him.”
It was a very good year. In 1976 Boggs attained the rank of Captain, became the Olympic Springboard Champion and was promoted to Chief of the Educational Research Branch for the AF Academy. He was 25 years old.
It was also at this time that Phil decided to change career directions. He chose to forego the military life and become a civilian attorney. Honorably discharged, Phil left the service to enter Law School at the University of Michigan.
Though his vocational path turned he had no intention of giving up his avocation-diving. It seemed as though his victory in Montreal had signaled the beginning of Phil’s diving career instead of the peak. While enrolled at Michigan’s School of Law he began working out in earnest for the next big challenge – a victory on platform. In 1977 he won both the indoor and outdoor 3 meter national championships and, for the first time, won the national outdoor title on tower. According to Tom Gompf “Phil was an awesome tower diver even though he rarely had access to a 10 meter site. He learned his list on the only equipment available, Michigan’s indoor 7 meter platform.”
In 1978 Boggs did what no other diver had done before. He won the 3-meter world championship for the third consecutive time. That year he was awarded the highest international aquatics award the FINA PRIZE EMINENCE.
Phil graduated law school in 1979, joined Greenberg Trauig, a prominent international legal firm and moved into their Miami, Florida offices. After work-hours he went into training for the 1980 Olympic games under the tutelage of diving coach Steve McFarland at the University of Miami. Former competitors, Boggs knew Steve’s expertise as a diver and looked up to him as coach. Steve guided Phil to silver and bronze medals in the 1979 Pan Am Games.
Every internationally ranked amateur athlete in the world was now concentrating on the upcoming Moscow Olympic Games. Alas for many it was not to become a reality. In the Middle East turbulence was rising and Russia launched a full-scale attack on Afghanistan. To demonstrate his displeasure, U.S. President James Carter ordered a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games. At the time it was an unpopular decision in the Olympic community and controversial throughout the United States. Nevertheless, Olympians from the USA and many other nations chose to stay away from Russian soil. Phil, now age 30, decided it was time to retire from active competition. Steve McFarland remembered, “Phil’s decision to step down was made with great deliberation. Though reluctant, I could not argue with his reasoning. His next Olympic opportunity would be four long years away. He and Jodi had things to do and a life to live outside of diving. His decision to come to Miami led to other paths which I was fortunate to share with him. We developed a special and enduring friendship. He taught me that obstacles build character, and I gave back to him the love of a true friend. The roads we traveled will always be an inspiration to me. If only they could have been longer.”
Retired from diving, Phil concentrated on the practice of law, married his college sweetheart, Michigan swimmer Jodi Ford, and became intensely active in the development of US Diving. An international spokesman for USD, Phil headed the search committee that found and hired Todd Smith to be the full time National Director of the fledgling organization. In 1982 Phil volunteered to assume the Presidency of US Diving. “Phil brought significant financial stability to our organization,” said Todd. “He instituted an investment program, developed sponsorships, helped create the Athletes Trust fund and established the US Diving Foundation. All along he worked hard and made things fun.”
Over the next 7 years Phil used his contacts and the skills learned in the practice of law to enter new businesses that financially prospered. He enabled Jodi to enjoy a successful matriculation through medical school and found the necessary time to continue helping grow US Diving.
Diagnosed with Lymphoma at age 39, Phil worked throughout the course of his 7-month illness. Said Tom Gompf, “. Phil faced death like he did diving. He never felt sorry for himself. He knew exactly what was going on till the very end. He planned his own going away party. And he went out with style!”
Note: The above notes were gathered from several sources, including articles written in 1990 by Bob Schneider, editor and publisher of Rip Magazine, a publication of US Diving.