Another diving bronze for Canada 0
If Arthur Benfeito was dreading his 50th birthday, fair to say he is no more.
Not when the apple of his eye, daughter Meaghan and her diving partner Roseline Filion delivered him the best present imaginable Tuesday afternoon at the Aquatic Centre.
The Quebec divers triggered a Canadian run on bronze when they placed third in the 10-metre synchro event, not to mention a celebration to for the Benfeito family, the wildly successful diving culture they compete in and a province and nation back home.
“As soon as we qualified (for the London Games), I told him the only gift I could actually give him was and Olympic medal,” a jubilant Benfeito said, that birthday bronze around her neck and a golden smile to go with. “He said ‘that’s the only thing I want.’
“As soon as I finished, I pointed at him and he knew exactly what it meant.”
It meant a lot to the Canadian diving team as well, following up on teammates Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel, who captured bronze in the three-metre synchro even on Sunday. And with more medal potential coming up from Alex Despatie and others, being a nation of divers doesn’t so bad to kick off the medal count.
The success for Benfito and Filion was the product of seven years together and four years to build off their Olympic debut in Beijing, where a seventh-place finish gently introduced them to the water they would penetrate with such authority on Tuesday.
Since then, the two have been inseperable, a palpable edge in a sport where a flinch or a blink can cause a freefall down the scoreboard. On Tuesday, they were indeed in perfect synch, aggressively challenging their more difficult drives and entering the water smooth, sharp and as one.
“The way they act, it’s almost like they met in the womb,” said Mitch Geller, the chief technical officer for Diving Canada. “They breathe at the same time. They eat at the same time. They sleep at the same time. They are connected.”
Connected now as medallists, the latest success story from the incredible Quebec diving factory. Each mentioned being inspired by the greats of the past like Sylvie Bernier and Annie Pelletier. In fact, their bronze came 16 years to the day after Pelletier won hers in Atlanta.
“Before we left, Annie came to our club to dive with us,” Filion said. “And I just had these flashbacks of being nine and eight and watching here and I’m seeing why I started to diving.”
No one was expected to challenge the Chinese pair of Ruolin Chen and Hao Wang who were clear favourite and lived up to it with a score of 368.40 through five dives. The Mexcian duo of Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco grabbed silver with 343.32 followed by the Canadians at 337.62.
Entering their fifth and final dive they were 10 points clear of fourth-place and Benfeito high-fived her teammate as they waited on the platform, a signal that as long as they didn’t miss the pool, they would have a medal.
“I always follow the scoreboard and I knew exactly where we were situated,” Benfeito said. “I knew that the last dive that we did is one of our best, that’s why we keep it for last. I told her: ‘All we have to do is land on our head and we’ve got it.’”