Diver Celina Toth identifies with struggle, success of Roseline Filion
St. Thomas, Ont., native draws many parallels to 2-time Olympic medallist
Celina Toth has fond memories when looking back at her first Summer Universiade two years ago in Gwangju, South Korea.
The 25-year-old won a gold medal in the women's 10-metre synchronized diving event and finished fourth in the individual event. Early Wednesday, she improved on that result with a bronze at the current games in Taipei City.
The St. Thomas, Ont., native credits the competition of the Universiade — the second-largest multi-sport event behind the Olympics — for putting her in a favourable position heading into 2016.
"Competing at the games was a really good experience for me going into the [FINA Diving] World Cup the next year in Rio," Toth said of the event which took place prior to the Rio Olympics and served as a test event for the venue.
"I don't think I would've been prepared for the intensity of that competition if I hadn't competed at the [World] University Games in Gwangju," she said. "It was just a whole other level of competition."
Test beyond competition
Toth remembers the individual 10m platform final being a test beyond the competition itself.
Physically, there was the challenge of getting through three rounds — preliminaries, semifinal, and final — all in one day, which is rare.
Toth also had the task of maintaining a high level of competition after posting the highest overall score in the preliminary round.
"I wasn't really knowing what to expect coming into a games like that. The pool was huge, there were so many people in the stadium — so that's a whole another level that adds to the competition," Toth said.
"Every competition is a mental game — you've already done all the preparation going into it — you just have to go there, shut off [all distractions], and do it. If you don't think about what's on the line and stay focused on each dive and not what's going to happen afterwards it's better."
While Toth enjoyed some success and gained valuable experience, she wasn't expecting to qualify for Rio.
At the least, Toth just wanted to give Canada's top divers — Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion — a run for their money.
But after qualifying for the World Cup in Rio, Toth's Olympic dream was suddenly within her grasp.
Benfeito, having already locked up a spot on Canada's Olympic team, skipped the meet, leaving Filion and Toth to battle it out for the second and final spot on the 10m platform team.
Toth entered the final two spots ahead of Filion, but missed on her last dive, allowing Filion to leapfrog her for the final Olympic berth.
The national trials followed in June and with both Olympic spots filled, Toth was only diving to prove to herself that she could rebound from the disappointment.
"I was going into the competition trying to prove that I could do the dive that I missed [at the World Cup] and I did — the best I'd ever done it and got nine's on the dive that basically made me miss out on the Olympics," said Toth, who wound up winning the event.
"When I started diving, I wasn't the most [naturally] talented and so there was lots of work and a lot of people saying I couldn't do a lot [in the sport]," Toth said "Having the love for the sport and wanting to compete, prove them wrong, and prove to myself that I can be [a] better [diver] pushed me to keep going."
Toth said she draws inspiration from Filion, who went onto a decorated career despite also being a victim of doubt.
"I really looked up to Rosie during my career, I feel like I relate to her a lot," Toth said. "She was an athlete who a lot of people didn't expect to see what she has done — multiple Olympic medals. I know that people have always told her that she would never be able to do that.
"I feel like I've gotten the same kind of reaction for the same reason and seeing her continue to be strong through it [all] is something that I've gained strength in to do myself. It's sad to see her go but it's nice to see that she had a great career and she's happy. Hopefully, I can have that as well."