Zika and bad weather won't faze Canada's divers

Canada's top divers The Canadian diving team got one last glimpse at the Rio diving venue as they competed in the recent Rio test event at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, and are hoping to put their recent experience towards Olympic success.

'We just use this to our advantage' says diver Philippe Gagné

Canadian divers compete in Rio test event and get a preview of what to expect when they come back to compete for the Olympics in August. (Diving Canada)

It will take more than a bit of Brazilian rain to faze Canadian divers competing at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Wind and a thunderstorm delayed events at the World Cup event there on Sunday. It was still raining when competition resumed, but Canada ended the day with two top-10 finishes. The outdoor venue, the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center in Barra da Tijuca, is the same one that will be used during the Games.

"It's not normal for us to compete outside, but the weather never really bothers me," said Philippe Gagné, who finished seventh in the men's 10-metre synchro platform final with partner Vincent Riendeau. "We just use this to our advantage as the rain and the wind will affect some of the other teams."

Gagné was not among the team members who trained at the venue in September. As the Games approach, the venue has seen more Olympic branding, new diving boards and platforms, and more fans.

'We were scared'

Like bad weather, the Zika virus is also much less of a concern.

Health Canada and FINA (the international diving body) gave athletes bug spray to help prevent the possibility of contracting the virus from an infected mosquito.

"Of course we were scared when we first got here," Jennifer Abel told CBC Sports.

"When I got my first mosquito bite, I was like 'Aaaaahh, I have Zika,'" Abel, a two-time Olympian, said with a laugh. "But as the days went on we became so focused on the competition that we forgot about it."

That focus paid off.

The Canadian diving team had impressive performances, with two medals and at least three new Olympic berths.

One of the highlights was the surprise appearance of Roseline Filion. who broke her ankle in December. 

Feeling about 80 per cent, and still having trouble squatting on the side of the ankle, her coaches let her know two days before the competition that she would be entered. Her sixth place finish was definitely encouraging.

"It was the most nervous I've ever been in my entire life," said the Olympic bronze medallist, poolside during the final day of the Rio test event. "But once I got up on the platform the competitive girl in me came out, and the nerves went away."

Filion's recovery bodes well for the women's 10m synchro event, in which she competes with Meaghan Benfeito. Benfeito sat out the World Cup to let Filion compete. It was boring sitting on the sidelines, she said, but worth it.

"I have mixed feelings about not getting to compete, I would have loved to dive in the Olympic pool one more time before The Games." says Benfeito, just after her first synchro practice with Roseline since the injury. "But me not competing means that Roseline is back, so I am really excited about that as we get closer to Rio."

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