Sarah Bacon went to Tokyo last week with a straightforward task: To help the United States earn the right to compete at this summer's Olympics in two women's diving events. The Gophers diver accomplished that mission and more, securing the Olympic berths and snagging a World Cup silver medal in the pool built for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Games.
Bacon finished second in the women's 3-meter springboard Tuesday at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, ending a 32-year World Cup medal drought for American women in that event. Another American, Samantha Pickens, finished 12th to give the U.S. two Olympic berths in women's individual 3-meter. No U.S. woman had won a World Cup medal in the event since Kelly McCormick's bronze in 1989.
Last Saturday, Bacon teamed with Kassidy Cook to place fifth in women's synchronized 3-meter, earning an Olympic berth for the U.S. in that event. She will compete next at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, in her hometown of Indianapolis.
A redshirt senior and Gophers captain, Bacon swept the 1-meter and 3-meter titles at the NCAA championships in March. The World Cup medal demonstrated the progress she has made on the 3-meter board under the guidance of Gophers diving coach Wenbo Chen.
"The feeling of accomplishing this is indescribable," Bacon told USA Diving. "Wenbo and I have put so much time and work in the past year into my 3-meter diving, and getting to a point where I was able to be consistent. To have it show through on all three of my [dive] lists, I just couldn't be any prouder."
For much of her career, Bacon has been known for her achievements on the 1-meter board. She won three NCAA titles in that event, as well as a silver medal at the 2019 world championships.
But 1-meter is not included in the Olympics. To contend for a spot at the Tokyo Games, Bacon needed to improve on 3-meter, and she took the 2019-20 season off from school and college diving to devote herself entirely to training.
China's Chen Yiwen dominated in the final with a score of 383.55, followed by Bacon (348.75) and China's Chang Yani (344.40).
Dan Laak, high performance director for USA Diving, had high praise for Bacon's performance.
"Today was a great day for Sarah," Laak told USA Diving. "Over the years, we have seen her develop into a true competitor. To see it come to fruition and [see] her make history is a testament to her work ethic."