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How the journey began for St. Louis County teen Olympic diver Tyler Downs

"His coaches are saying that we could potentially see him one day in the Olympics," his mother Teri Downs told 5 On Your Side when Tyler was 12 years old
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — Five years ago, 5 On Your Side's Rene Knott profiled up-and-coming young diver Tyler Downs. 

At 12 years old, the Ballwin native and youngest of seven was already wowing at competitions. He had won the national championship for his age group on the 1-meter board and earned a spot on the Pan American Junior Diving team.

"His coaches are saying that we could potentially see him one day in the Olympics," his mother Teri Downs told Rene at the time.

Now at age 17, Tyler has made that prediction a reality. He was anticipated to be more of a contender for the 2024 Olympics, but he proved his mettle Sunday night, beating his favorite diver David Boudia on the 3-meter springboard to qualify for an Olympic diving event with Team USA.

RELATED: St. Louis native qualifies for Tokyo Olympics with Team USA diving

His journey started at 5 years old.

"We just took him for swimming, and he was staring at the diving board," Tyler's mother said.

Once he got on the board, it didn't take long for people to realize he had a talent.

"He went from just one of those kids that liked to go off the board over and over to a world-class diver really," his dive instructor at the time said.

5 On Your Side caught up with Tyler again in 2019, when he was 16.

He was older, wiser and even more committed. The teen had left his family home in Ballwin to train seven hours a day, six days a week in Indiana. Diving had taken him all over the world, and he was hoping it would take him to the Olympics.

That commitment came with sacrifice: he missed out on school dances and other activities kids his age experience.

"I had to grow up pretty fast," he said.

But to him, the reward made everything worth it.

"I love winning. I'm very competitive. I love the feeling that everyone's watching you," he said.

All eyes were on him this weekend when his hard work earned him what he has been working toward all this time.

"I’m only 17 years old. I still have so much to go for, but making the Olympic team at 17, it’s unreal," he said Sunday before finding his mom in the crowd. 

The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony is July 23. 5 On Your Side is your home for all the Olympics action.

Here's our full profile on Tyler from when he was 12 years old: