Q&A: After winning gold, Montreal diver Nathan Zsombor-Murray eyes Tokyo Olympics

Zsombor-Murray won gold at the Montreal Diving World Series in the 10-metre mixed synchro event on his 15th birthday Saturday, diving with Olympian Meaghan Benfeito.

Zsombor-Murray, who won Montreal Diving World Series gold medal, sets his sights on Olympic success

Nathan Zsombor-Murray and Meaghan Benfeito celebrate after winning gold in the mixed 10-metre synchro event at the Montreal Diving World Series on Saturday. (Diving Canada)

Nathan Zsombor-Murray has come a long way from the Viking Pool in Pointe-Claire, the outdoor pool where he goofed around with his sister and parents in the summertime as a preschooler.

That's where Zsombor-Murray, 15, was first discovered by a local diving coach, who saw the pint-sized daredevil jumping off his father's shoulders and into the water.

"One of the coaches saw me doing these acrobatic stunts, and he said, 'Why don't you try out for the dive team?'" Zsombor-Murray recalled this week in an interview with Sue Smith, host of CBC Montreal's Homerun.

"So I tried out."

The rest, as they say, is history — and now, more than a decade and thousands of hours of practice later, Zsombor-Murray is an international gold-medallist.

He reached the top of the podium in the mixed 10-metre synchro event at the Montreal Diving World Series on Saturday, which also happened to be his birthday.

Zsombor-Murray talked to CBC about how it feels to win gold in his hometown in one of the biggest events of his career, what it's like competing alongside his diving partner, three-time Olympic bronze-medallist Meaghan Benfeito, and what he hopes to achieve next.

So, how are you feeling after this weekend?

At first I was a little intimidated by the extent of the event. I knew what I was getting myself into, but then once I finished, I was very happy with my results.

Was it actually your birthday when you won the gold medal?

Yes, it was. It was the day of.

What did you have to do to win?

We had fun, first of all. But we had to do every dive like we practised — and just do them how we know how to do them and stay consistent throughout the whole event.

Have you ever competed at this level before?

My first big international competition was the [FINA] World Championships in Budapest in 2017. This [was] my second biggest international event.

Canadians Benfeito and Zsombor-Murray dive to gold

5 years ago
Duration 6:22
Meaghan Benfeito and Nathan Zsombor-Murray won gold in the mixed 10m synchro platform event at the FINA Diving World Series in Montreal.

What has it been like to have Meaghan Benfeito as a diving partner?

I think we have pretty good chemistry together. We've known each other for a while. The first time I saw her was two or three years ago.

Before Budapest, it had been less than two weeks, a week maybe, that we had been training together. Going into the World Series, I was a little more prepared because we knew what to do. We had done it before.

What kind of chemistry do you need to be good at synchro dives?

When we first started training, it sort of just clicked. We were pretty good from the get-go together. 

I think for me, what sort of helped … is I always sort of looked up to her.

On the 10-metre, she's always encouraging me. She says, 'Go Nathan! You can do this.' She supports me. She tells me to have fun, and I think that really helps me and her get along better and have a better chemistry.

What do you say to each other before the dives?

She asks me if I'm ready. I say yes or no. Usually it's yes. Then she counts to three and says go — and then we go.

How terrifying is it to jump off that high platform? How do you acclimatize yourself?

I'm not even quite sure if I'm still used to the 10-metre. It's still quite terrifying. 

But it's just a lot of practice, a lot of building up to it, and having good coaches.

Zsombor-Murray says 'good chemistry' is the key to success in synchronized dives. (Diving Canada)

What's next? Now that you've won the gold, is it time for retirement?

(Laughs) No, no. I'm still young; I still got a while to go.

The Olympics are coming up in two years. Are you dreaming of going to Tokyo?

It's only two years away. That isn't a long time, and hopefully I can [take] my spot in the big league — not only for synchro, but individually. 

That'll be my next big goal.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun