9-22-17 Intrasquad Swim Meet

Sophomore diver Juan Celaya-Hernandez prepares to dismount the springboard at LSU Natatorium on Sept. 22, 2017.

With passion in his eyes, Juan Celaya-Hernandez talked about the possibility of his Olympic dream coming true.

Celaya-Hernandez, a Mexico native, has fought his way to the top, not only of the NCAA, but also the Mexican national ranks.

With the 2020 Olympic Games around the corner, there is nothing but five colors on Celaya-Hernandez’s mind - blue, black, red, yellow and green.

For athletes competing at a high level, the Olympic Games is the ultimate dream. Celaya-Hernandez, unlike most, has a real chance at achieving that dream.

“It would be the accomplishment of my dreams,” Celaya-Hernandez said.

Celaya-Hernandez, 21, began his diving journey in June 2006. Athletics have now taken up over half of his life.

At this point in his career, it becomes so much more than just a sport - it becomes a lifestyle, Celaya-Hernandez said.

Celaya-Hernandez is in his senior season. His coach, Douglas Shaffer, and he decided to take an Olympic redshirt year.

This means that he will not be competing in the collegiate season for the 2019-20 year.

“It gives us the opportunity to spend all of his time on the events that he would potentially compete in,” Shaffer said. “Any time that we would be training one-meter springboard or 10-meter platform, we can dedicate to refining his skills on the three-meter springboard.”

In the sport of springboard and platform diving,  for a country to send athletes to compete at the Games, each country has to earn its spots.

There are approximately 130 spots across all events and genders to designate to countries. This means only 130 divers will compete at the Olympic Games out of the 7.53 billion people in the world.

These spots are allocated by placing at certain world-class competitions throughout the year of the Olympic Games, such as the World Championships and the World Cup competition.

At the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Celaya-Hernandez earned a bronze medal in the three-meter synchronized event. This earned Mexico a spot in this event for the 2020 Olympic Games.

This was a huge feat for Mexico and a confidence boost for Celaya-Hernandez leading up to the Games.

“I was still speechless a week past that accomplishment,” Celaya-Hernandez said. “When we got the medal I said I still can’t believe we just did this.”

Following the World Championships in July, Celaya-Hernandez had a quick turnaround and made his way to the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, winning two gold medals and a silver.

“Whether we’re at practice or at a meet he’s always in the zone,” said Dakota Hurbis, a junior on the LSU dive team. “Nobody trains or competes harder than Juan.”

Shaffer is one of the most experienced coaches Celaya-Hernandez has had, and the LSU Tigers are like family to him, according to the potential Olympian.

Up next for Celaya-Hernandez are a series of international competitions and the Mexican national trials for the games.

Celaya-Hernandez’s chances of qualifying are looking good and he is excited for the future.

“I mean [Celaya-Hernandez chances of qualifying are] legit and very promising,” Shaffer said.

The next Olympic qualifying competition for Celaya-Hernandez will be the 2020 FINA Diving World Cup in Tokyo from April 21-26.

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