KNOXVILLE, Tenn — A Knoxville man fell just short of making Team USA.
Jacob Siler was trying to make the team. He competed in the Olympic diving trials over the weekend.
The top two in the event qualify for the team. He finished 6th in the men's individual platform, missing the cutoff for the team
When Jacob Siler was a boy, he had one dream — to compete in the Olympics. More than a decade later, his dreams are becoming a reality after years spent honing his diving skills and earning accolades.
"I want to go to the Olympics," he said. "Like, right out of the gate day one. That's what I wanted."
Before he dipped his toes in a pool though, it took a nudge from his parents to get him to start diving.
"I'll do it. But only if you get me a Speedo," he said to his mother many years ago.
She obliged, and soon Jacob was leaping into pools sporting his brand new Speedo.
"I didn't even know where to go buy one," said Cheri Siler, his mother. "So I started looking around, we got one and we signed up."
The journey had begun, and Jacob said he instantly fell in love with the sport. His family said it was all he would do, and his father even made him cut back some time to do other things and be a kid before he would become a diver.
"I tried to get him to slow down because he was going five days a week," said Stanley Siler, his father.
Eventually, Jacob joined the U.S. Men's Junior Diving Team. Later, he took his talents to Ohio State University. But as he planned to take yet another dive into a new goal in 2020, gearing up for trials, COVID-19 had a different plan.
"I was standing on the pool deck at that meet. We weren't sure if it was gonna happen," he said,
The pandemic had not dulled his ambition and Jacob was still determined to achieve his dream of competing in the Olympics. With the help of his mother, the driveway became his training space.
"I ordered a crash mat so that they could flip in the driveway," said Cheri.
But still, the pandemic took its toll. Even with the chance to dive in the driveway, Jacob said he almost burned out because he could not dive like he had done for the last decade.
But he did not give up. A year later in 2021, Jacob is sitting in sixth place and needs either a first or second-place finish on Saturday to earn a spot in Tokyo.
"My mindset going into tomorrow is that I'm ready to go have some fun, and rip some dives and do my best," he said.
No matter what the results are, whether he appears at the Tokyo Olympics or not, he's already made his parents proud.
"He has worked so hard and been so focused and so dedicated in what he's done," said Cheri. "I'm just beyond proud of him, I just can't even describe it."
And in his father's eyes, Jacob has already achieved the dreams he had for himself all those years ago.
"I already see him as an Olympian because of what he's accomplished," Stanley said.
Jacob can be seen on Saturday at 8 p.m. on the NBC Olympics Channel as he competes for a spot in the worldwide event.
The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23 on Channel 10.