By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) - David Boudia used to be scared to dive off the 10-meter platform. Yet when it counted the most, he never flinched.
The American plunged off the 33-foot tower, somersaulting and twisting over and over on his last dive to win an Olympic gold medal by 1.80 points over Qiu Bo of China on Saturday night in the closest men's platform contest since 1988.
Boudia's victory gave the U.S. its first gold in diving since 2000, and was the first by an American man since the late Mark Lenzi won the 3-meter springboard at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
"Oh, my God, I don't have words for it," said Greg Louganis, the diving great who swept the springboard and platform events at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and who has mentored Boudia.
On the medals stand, Boudia wiped his brow as if to say, "Whew!"
It was that close.
The American scored 568.65 points in the six-dive final after barely making it out of the preliminary rounds.
Qiu took the silver at 566.85 in the tightest contest since Louganis won the last of his four golds by 1.14 over Xiong Ni of China in Seoul.
"Qiu Bo is a diving machine. He dove absolutely amazing," Boudia said. "I don't think he can walk away from this competition thinking he did bad. I just dove better in that moment."
Ten years ago, Boudia couldn't fathom jumping off the platform. He was 13 and "completely petrified" of heights. He struggled to master the big tower over the next six years.
It wasn't until the 2008 Beijing Games that Boudia felt truly comfortable. He finished 10th doing a list of dives with the highest degree of difficulty of any man in the final.
"After Beijing, I thought, `All right, this isn't so hard. It's only three stories up,'" he said. "Having more practice and more training on 10-meter gave me that peace. Now it doesn't faze me. It's cool."
Tom Daley of Britain settled for the bronze at 556.95 after leading going into the final dive in front of a raucous home crowd that included David Beckham and his three sons.
"Tom Daley dove the lights out, Qiu Bo dove the lights out," Boudia said. "I only did what I do in practice."
Daley scored 90.75 on his last dive, including one 10, but Boudia and Qiu each did the same tougher dive in the last round.
Boudia had no idea he was tied for second with Qiu going into the last round.
"Probably good too because if I had known the margin my heart would've been pounding and the pressure would've been building," Boudia said. "I just went up for the last dive like I did the first five."
He scored 102.60 points on a back 2 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists pike worth a 3.6 degree of difficulty. It was the highest score of any dive in the final.
Qiu followed Boudia and scored 100.80, not quite enough to deliver a seventh gold for China in these games.
"I was very nervous," Qiu said through a translator. "I have competed so many times, but I have never had that much nervousness."
China won six golds, first losing the men's 3-meter springboard to spoil its bid for a sweep of the eight gold medals, and then coming up short in the last diving event at the London Games.
Qiu rested his head against the wall behind the diving boards in anguish.
"It is OK," the 19-year-old diver said. "I am still young and I will be back."
Boudia, meanwhile, shared in a group hug with his coaches and teammates, a broad smile on his face.
"I dreamed about this," Boudia said. "It didn't even feel like I was diving it was so surreal."
The 23-year-old diver from Noblesville, Ind., came out to find his family and friends after the medals ceremony. Boudia climbed into the stands to share hugs and kisses with his supporters who wore royal blue T-shirts with "Boudia" on the back.
Nick McCrory, the other American, finished ninth in his first Olympics.
"I knew he could do it," he said, referring to Boudia. "He was ending with a solid dive and he hit it. I'm so happy for him. He really earned it."
Boudia's victory was the fourth diving medal won by the U.S. in London after the Americans were shut out at the previous two Olympics for the first time. They won a silver and two bronze medals in the synchro events. It was the first U.S. diving gold since Laura Wilkinson upset the Chinese on women's platform at the Sydney Games.