Splash crowned its first winner Tuesday and Rory Bushfield walked away with the Crystal Splash trophy (yes, that's what it's called). The extreme freestyle skier and his insane acrobatics, not to mention ruptured eardrum, emphatically beat out Drake Bell and runner-up Nicole Eggert, who suffered a nasty and literal backflop into the water on her final dive. "It was up to the fans [to vote for the winner], so you never know what's going to happen," Bushfield tells TVGuide.com. "But Nicole was pretty badass. She went for that double and almost had it." See whate else Bushfield, had to say about his victory, if Bell was really calling him out and doing the show for his late wife, pioneering freestyle skier Sarah Burke.
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Congratulations! You had to know you were going to win, right?
Rory Bushfield: [Laughs] I don't know. I came in with an advantage for sure. But Nicole was killing it. ... She had never done that double from that height. She wanted to win, so she was going for all the marbles. I wanted her to go to the 10-meter. I was like, "Go the 10, Nicole. Set that thing slow and you'll be fine."
You always dove from the 10.
Bushfield: I think it's easier because you have more time. You do one flip, then you look around and you do another. Whereas when you're lower, you do one and you keep pulling. Adjusting to changing heights was another advantage I had. In skiing, you never know how big you'll go. You set something and you go over the edge and you might go really, really big. And most of the time we only get one chance to hit it, so you just go for it and hope you land on your feet.
It looked like you were trying really hard not to do any off-axis spins.
Bushfield: Exactly. If you do something different, you're rewarded for that in skiing. [Ed. Note: Watch his best skiing hits below.] In diving, if you look different, you get a deduction. It was hard getting the form down. Mine definitely could've been better had I been able to practice in the water. [David] Boudia is amazing and [Greg] Louganis — man. I got to see Greg dive a couple times. He's just so good, so smooth, just straight in with his hands and head. ... I was planning on going headfirst a lot more, but the eardrum, man. I got away with a lot of stuff without training because I just visualize, but going in headfirst without ever practicing it is daunting. My natural instinct is to land on my feet. You have to build muscle memory a little bit, so it was tough. But I definitely wanted my last dive to be headfirst.
You seemed really bummed when you had to change your headfirst dive with Jake because of it.
Bushfield: Yeah, that was a real bummer for me. Jake wanted to do that dive. His dive was so good. I didn't want to let him down. But it was cool to do the new backflip with him. He's an awesome little guy.
How bad was your eardrum?
Bushfield: Half of my eardrum was gone in the picture. I went to three doctors who told me I couldn't dive and I almost couldn't continue with the show. I was like, "I shouldn't have gone to the doctor in the first place." They were all saying I couldn't dive. The second one I went to was supposed to be diving-friendly, Sammy Lee.
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The Olympic gold medalist?
Bushfield: Yeah, the Olympian. He became an ear doctor after the Olympics and he had a protégé and I went to him and he wouldn't sign it either. It was like 5 o'clock and I was supposed to be diving the next day ... and finally I went to a fourth doctor and he was super-nice. "Oh, yeah, that will probably heal up." He told me to be careful and signed me off so I could be under the insurance ... and then he had another doctor make me earplugs. I used the earplugs, and it was all good, but as soon as I smiled or flexed my jaw, that would break the seal. I was a little bit worried.
How does this compare to your skiing injuries?
Bushfield: I've been pretty darn lucky my whole life. I've had some friends who've been through a lot worse injuries than I have. But a ruptured eardrum, your ear just rings and you can't get it wet. As long as I don't get an infection, it's fine. My balance is a little bit affected, but compared to blowing your knee and having to have surgery, it's peanuts. But at the same time, it's still ringing now and I probably significantly lessened my hearing in the future. [Laughs] I don't know. Maybe not. They just told me it would eventually stop ringing. It heals quicker than I thought. It started holding pressure a week ago.
Drake kept calling you out last week for going feet first even though you had to. What was that all about? I honestly couldn't tell if he was joking or not since he's so competitive on the show.
Bushfield: [Laughs] He was joking. He was serious on the show and he was out of his element since he'd never done anything like that. Yeah, maybe he was a little bit competitive. Drake's a nice guy. I got along with him great. It was cool to see him push himself. He freakin' worked himself a couple of times. When he landed on his face, that was like, oh, man! You do not want to do that. Over-rotating a front flip is the worst on water, snow, anywhere. It's a direct face slap. You have gravity and this insane momentum that your head is traveling. He got worked that night.
A lot of people didn't know who you were when the show started, but anyone who saw your first dive could see that you were one of the favorites. Did you feel that from the cast too?
Bushfield: I guess so. Everybody was so nice to me and supported me the whole way through. It was just a fun time. ... It was last-minute [casting] and they announced me and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. I was like, "Holy sh--! OK!" It was really cool to dive with Kareem. He's such an amazing athlete and to watch him wrap his head around diving and doing flips and spins was sick. I can't believe he dove off the 10. That was incredible. He did an NBA-style jump off of that. He almost ended up in the shallow end of the pool.
Were you surprised or disappointed when Kendra [Wilkinson] bailed out on your team dive?
Bushfield: It surprised me. But I knew that she was very scared of heights and it would be very hard to overcome. It's a phobia for her, so I totally understand. But at the same time, I thought we were going to go right until the very end. ... But I also didn't have to get my eardrum wet, so that was good.
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You talked about Sarah a few times and how you wanted to go headfirst so she wouldn't call you a baby. What would she say to you now that you've won?
Bushfield: I'm sure she's smiling for sure. She'd be proud. I just wanted to use the platform of the show to spread the word about the Sarah Burke Foundation. That's one of the huge reasons I decided to do the show. The more people can know about it, the more we can build it bigger and help more people. That's what Sarah did. ... We gave away three grants today for $7,500 to two girls and one guy. One's an aerialist, one's a moguls skier and one's a paraplegic racer. And right now we're in the mix of trying to figure out an event to do.
I'd like to think she'd scare you. Her Scarah videos were awesome.
Bushfield: [Laughs] She used to love to do that! There are lots that didn't get on the site and there are lots she didn't film. She got me so many times, I can't even tell you! She got her coach Trennon [Paynter] really good. It was his birthday, and she hid in the back of his truck and buried herself in the presents. I lured Trennon into the truck and he jumped. ... At Momentum Ski Camp — where we both went to and coached, and there's a Spirit of Sarah Scholarship there too — she'd always scare kids. She would hide in the stairwell or the underground parkade, just waiting. You'd see her scheming and you'd keep walking. They were good ones. She got me into it. I need to find the ones she didn't post.
What's next for you? Are you going to do Nitro Circus again?
Bushfield: I'd like to do another tour with them. Those guys have a couple things coming up. I'd like to do some of them, do a bit more roller-skiing. Nothing concrete yet. I'll just do some skiing and work with Sherpas Cinema, who I film ski movies with. Try to stay out of the water, but I'll likely go surfing.
Are you going to keep diving?
Bushfield: I think I'll keep diving as much as I can. I like it. Every time I go to the dive tank, I can have some new skill, which is pretty good. But I probably won't dive until my eardrum heals.
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Steve [Foley] was pushing you for the Rio Olympics. Become a two-sport athlete.
Bushfield: I know! Maybe I should start training. [Laughs] I don't know. Diving is a pretty serious thing. I did OK against those guys, but I'm not sure I can keep up in the diving world.
Where do you keep the Crystal Splash Trophy? That thing is huge.
Bushfield: Yeah, it's humongous. I carry it around with me. No, it's at my friend's house now. It's like 50 pounds at least.
And we have to talk about the contestant intro songs. Those were my favorite part of the show. What did you think of yours?
Bushfield: Oh, my God! [sings] Brandi Chastain, do it again / She used to play soccer / Now she's hitting the water. [Laughs] I love that song. It was a great rhyme. I actually didn't hear my song. I heard a little bit. But I had things on my mind. I had just jammed my earplug in, so I couldn't hear. I'm hearing Rocky music in my head. ... How does mine go?
You have to listen to it. It starts with a chant of your name and then "Rory's defying gravity / Yeah, yeah, yeah." It's kind of repetitive, like they all are.
Bushfield: [Laughs] That sounds amazing! I need to listen to it now.
Watch Rory's winning dive and his greatest hits below. Are you glad he won?