Field of Play: Canada's silver sisters of diving | Sports | CBC Sports CBC Sports - Sochi 2014

OlympicsField of Play: Canada's silver sisters of diving

Posted: Monday, July 22, 2013 | 07:50 PM

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Canada's Meaghan Benfeito, right, and Roseline Filion, left,  won a silver medal in the women's 10-metre synchronized event at the FINA worlds on Monday. (Ian MacNicol/Diving Canada) Canada's Meaghan Benfeito, right, and Roseline Filion, left, won a silver medal in the women's 10-metre synchronized event at the FINA worlds on Monday. (Ian MacNicol/Diving Canada)

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Canada's Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion, fresh off a silver medal at the FINA world championships on Monday, have blossomed into the mainstays of an evolving Canadian diving program.  
The phone rings on a Monday afternoon and the voice at the other end of the line is positively giddy.

"One step closer to the Chinese," Meaghan Benfeito chuckles from Barcelona, Spain.  

She and her partner Roseline Filion have just made a late charge to win silver at the FINA world championships just behind the dominant duo from China and a whisker ahead of the talented Malaysians.

"[The 2016 Rio Summer Games] seem far away but it's going to come very fast," Benfeito hastens to add. "We're a team and we're going to go to our third Olympics together."

But wait, that's another three full years down the road.

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That said it's obvious that Benfeito and Filion have blossomed into the mainstays of an evolving Canadian diving program.  

It's a team which has seen both the most decorated male and female divers in the country's history retire over the course of a few months. 

Alexandre Despatie and Emilie Heymans have taken with them a boatload of Olympic and world championship medals, but leave Benfeito and Filion to lead the next charge.

"We've been such a close family," Filion acknowledges with regard to the legacy of Despatie and Heymans. "But now we're discovering new divers and building new relationships as we get going all over again and move forward."

One relationship that has stood the test of time is the partnership that exists between Benfeito, 24, and Filion, 26.  

They burst onto the international scene at the FINA world championships at home in Montreal in 2005 when they won the bronze medal in the 10-metre synchronized event. 

Last summer at the Olympics in London they took bronze in the same category but in eight years together, this silver medal in Spain constitutes the zenith of their careers.

"For now it feels good to be back on the podium," Filion admits. "Who knows what will happen in 2016? All I know is this represents improvement since the last Olympics."

"The next Olympics are absolutely what they're in it for," adds Mitch Geller, the longtime chief technical officer of Diving Canada. "They're motivated by incremental improvements because at their level that's all you get."

In addition, Benfeito and Filion, once raw rookies, are suddenly the senior athletes on the team in terms of age and experience. They're expected to lead but they're also getting a push from younger divers like the Ware sisters, Carol-Ann and Pamela, who are making podium inroads at these world championships.

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"You want upward pressure all the time," Geller reckons. "You want one more athlete capable of making the team than spots exist. It keeps the others on their toes more than if they had a monopoly on things."

Still, having covered Benfeito and Filion since they were teenagers and that first breakthrough in Montreal, it's reassuring to hear their voices and the excitement that's still detectable all the way from Barcelona.  

Having seen them come so close at succeeding world championships in Melbourne, Rome and Shanghai as well as at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, it's heartening to understand that they've forged an enduring, almost familial bond that propels them to excellence.

"It started as a synchro team," Benfeito says of their coming together.  "But we became best friends and even sisters. We've come to understand each other and that's when we compete best."

If all goes according to plan by the time they get to Rio de Janeiro and their next Olympic challenge they will have been a team for nearly a dozen years. That rarely happens in sport these days.  

Desire and talent can often wane over time and competitive longevity becomes unpredictable when more than one athlete is involved in the equation. 
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"In the post Olympic year most athletes drop off in terms of performance," Benfeito points out. "But we've progressed and it shows we've worked hard."

For her part, Filion stresses the intangible secret to their collective success.

"It's the friendship and the sisterhood that's developed between us," she says. "That's what's made us stick together all these years."

As they hang up the phone it occurs to me that Benfeito and Filion have got a great thing going. They've had the luxury of growing up on the field of play together.

All of which makes their silver medal success so much sweeter to share.

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