Canada’s diving team enters new age with test against international competition at worlds | CBC Sports

The Canadian diving team will ring in a new era entering the FINA world championships in Budapest this week.

With the retirements of four-time Olympians Jennifer Abel and Meaghan Benfeito following Tokyo 2020, Canada will be in search of its stars of the future as it goes into its first major international competition of the quadrennial.

Despite the recent success at the FINA Grand Prix in Calgary they are set to face stiffer competition at the worlds — but there’s no shortage of intrigue regarding the team’s upside.

“We’re really excited about what we’re seeing. This could represent one of the best teams, if not the best, from a quality perspective, from a depth perspective, [and] from a talent perspective,” Diving Canada’s chief technical officer Mitch Geller told CBC Sports.

“You might not see [it] at this event, but our excitement, our confidence, our pride — those things are high. It’s broader than this because we only brought six [divers], [but] what we have now, [for the] next two Olympics, these are our athletes. They’re just making themselves known now.”

Olympians Caeli McKay, Nathan Zsombor-Murray and Rylan Wiens highlight the six-athlete squad that will be headed to Budapest, Hungary for competition from June 26-July 3.

Mia Vallée, Margo Erlam, and Bryden Hattie round out the team.

McKay, who finished fourth in the 10-metre synchronized event with Benfeito in Tokyo, will be facing international competition for the first time since 2021 when she competes in the 10m individual event.

Meaghan Benfeito carries Caeli McKay on her back following the post-competition press conference. The duo placed fourth in the women’s 10-metre synchronized diving event on Tuesday in Tokyo as McKay competed with an injured ankle. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

McKay, who competed at the Games with torn ligaments in her left ankle, managed to qualify at the senior nationals in May. After skipping the Grand Prix event in preparation for the world championships, it may possibly still be an uphill battle for McKay who continues to work through the injury.

“She had a really good preliminaries at our recent trials and went close to her personal best. That was encouraging,” Geller said.

“She’s still bothered by this foot injury and that’s limited the amount of volume she’s been able to do. That’s a concern because there’s three rounds of competition in this and she hasn’t done that in quite a long time. We don’t really know what to expect but I do think that, if she gets to the finals, then that would be great.”

The Calgary native won bronze at a World Cup event in 2021 and finished seventh at the 2019 world championships in the 10m individual.

Transitioning in variety of ways

The shift for the Canadian squad will not only come in the form of gauging where the divers stand among their international counterparts in individual events, but also having synchronized duos build on newfound chemistry from the recent Grand Prix, where Canada was able to pick up a total of eight medals.

“The truth is, we haven’t seen the other international divers in a long time,” Diving Canada’s Maelle Dancause said. “Some of them have retired, [there are] some junior divers emerging on the senior international scene — being at the world championships will be a very good test for our team to see how we can place, where they can improve, test out their new dives and for us, [and] test out new synchro teams.”

Zsombor-Murray, who finished fifth in Tokyo in the 10m synchronized with now-retired partner Vincent Riendeau, will enter his second international competition with Wiens.

The pair won gold in the same event at the Grand Prix in their first competition together. The duo will also be taking part in the 10m individual where Wiens and Zsombor-Murray finished 1-2 at nationals and rank seventh and fourth in the world by FINA, respectively.

WATCH | Wiens wins silver in individual 10m at Grand Prix:

Rylan Wiens earns silver in men’s 10m platform final

The 20-year-old Saskatoon native finished with a final score of 472.6 at the FINA Diving Grand Prix Canada Cup in Calgary.

They are not alone in having to build with a new partner either.

Mia Vallée and Margo Erlam, who collected gold in the 3m synchronized at the Grand Prix, will only be entering their third competition together.

WATCH | Vallée, Erlam grab gold in 3m synchro event:

Erlam, Vallée win gold and Ware, Wilson earn silver in women’s open 3m synchro finals

The Canadian duos finished with 305.40 points and 299.46 points respectively in the competition at the FINA Diving Grand Prix Canada Cup in Calgary.

Vallée, of Beaconsfield, Que., who will also compete in the 3m and 1m individual events — as is Erlam — has impressed on all fronts in 2022. The 21-year-old won both individual events at the nationals, with Erlam finishing right behind her. Vallée also earned silver in the 3m event at the Grand Prix.

WATCH | Vallée picks up silver in 3m:

Mia Vallee scores silver at the FINA diving grand prix of Canada

Canadian diver Mia Vallee finished second in the Women’s 3m individual competition at the FINA grand prix of diving being held in Calgary.

Hattie, who along with Zsombor-Murray and McKay make up the three who have world championship experience, also comes in with some momentum of his own.

The 20-year-old Victoria, B.C., native grabbed gold in both individual 1m and 3m events at nationals, where he will also  compete at the world championships.

Although the Canadian squad has flashed its capabilities, the potential they display facing stronger international competition will be a sight to see as they move forward in the quadrennial.

‘We’re really looking forward to seeing how they will do — can they rub shoulders with the best that there is?” Dancause said. “It’ll be interesting for us to see how we’re doing on the international scene.”

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