Diver Tyler Downs Just Became an Olympian, So What Title's Next? College Student
Though the Tokyo Olympics were his first Games, the teen swimmer tells PEOPLE it's "hopefully ... not my last"
Just days out from his Olympic debut, diver Tyler Downs is already thinking about the future. Paris in 2024 — and, more immediately, Purdue University.
"I get a little bit of time off after this," he tells PEOPLE while chatting in Tokyo, noting his move-in date is Aug. 17. "I got to move into Purdue, get situated there and then hopefully start the training process for Paris."
During this year's Games — which will come to a conclusion on Sunday after a two-plus weeks of competition — Downs competed in the men's 3m springboard. He finished 23rd in the preliminary rounds, admitting that he feels "I feel like I could have done way better."
But he's not deterred: "I felt like I was ready to compete, but it just wasn't my day. And hopefully the next Olympics, hopefully I make it. I can perform better."
Downs, who just turned 18 on July 19, says that spectators can't quite comprehend the "behind-the-scenes pressure" these athletes face — "they don't know what's going on ... whether it's with your family, teammates, coaches, how your practice is going."
It's a conversation Downs is glad fellow Team USA athlete Simone Biles brought to the forefront as she battled a loss of air awareness and was sidelined for most of her gymnastics events.
He, too, has experienced the phenomenon she called the "twisties": "It's definitely really hard to come back, especially when you've been at such a high with all your competitions and then coming into the Olympics and having all of this pressure to win."
Early into the Games, Downs' TikTok about wanting to meet Biles went viral on the social media platform, where he is a budding star with nearly 1 million followers.
He tells PEOPLE that the pair did get to chat in the Olympic Village.
Biles "and Suni [Lee] ... they came to the village to take pictures of the [Olympic] rings," says Downs. "Suni told me to look out my patio, so I looked out they were sitting there, and I was waving. Then we actually went to the store and I saw them in there and we talked for a little bit."
Downs, who began diving at age 5 in his home state of Missouri, says the Games have been "definitely one to remember," even with the COVID-19 restrictions and lack of in-person fans.
"Everything's been top-notch, the village, everything's so nice," he tells PEOPLE. "The Japanese people, they're the sweetest people ever."
And now, as he heads home, he's got one thing on his mind: Chik-fil-A.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.
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