DWS 2014, Windsor: Diving Canada predicts medals in all women’s events
The trophy case in the lobby of the Winter International Aquatic and Training Centre located in Windsor, Canada is filled with memorabilia which chronicles the region's proud athletic history. Not surprisingly most of the exhibits commemorated the nation's rich tradition of dominant performances on the frozen ponds, lakes and ice rinks of the Ontario province. You'll see a bright red jacket from the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games worn by John Loring, one of the greatest Canadian track and field athlete of all time. There are even a few photographs, yellowing with age, featuring swim teams from the 1970's. You can look hard, but you won't find any diving memorabilia behind the glass.
Thanks to efforts of Mayor Eddie Francis and Diving Canada there may be a need to expand the trophy case in the very near future. The fifth stop of the FINA/NVC Diving World Series is scheduled to begin today at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre located just 0.5 mile from the city of Detroit, Michigan across from Lake Michigan. A total of USD$96,000 in prize money will be distributed to athletes placing first, second and third in the eight individual and synchro events during the World Series event this weekend.
Spring weather recently arrived in Canada's southernmost province earlier this week and so did 72 of the world's best competitive divers representing 14 different countries. Several of China and Russia's best divers aren't competing here. Olympic gold medallist David Boudia of the USA recently withdrew due to an injury, but it's an impressive roster of divers assembled in Windsor.
According to the Mayor, "This is a hockey town! Swimming wasn't a big part of our culture but we decided to build one of the best competition venues in the world. We want to develop and promote the sport and to encourage young people to become swimmers and divers."
The Mayor isn't only responsible for bringing this first ever event to North America for the first time. He is also the force behind the construction of the City of Windsor's brand new state-of-the-art aquatics facility. The impressive 10 lane competitive and recreational pool only opened last January. The venue features a dive tower with five platforms at heights of 1m, 3m, 5m, 7m, and 10m and two springboards platforms at heights of 1m (two diving boards) and 3m (two diving boards). The dive tank reaches a depth of 5.2m or 17.06ft. "This is exactly how we planned it, and that's something we are proud of" said the Mayor.
Divers "flying" in the brand-new aquatic centre in Windsor - credit: Michael Thomas Munhall
A very proud Mayor added "This is a culmination of many years of discussion and hard work, all of which has been a truly amazing experience. This is the first year of our four year commitment to host the World Series event in Windsor."
When Penny Joyce, the chief operating officer for Diving Canada, spoke with the Mayor last summer in Barcelona at the 2013 FINA World Championships she convinced him that the new venue would be the perfect place for a Canadian edition of the FINA World Series of diving. "We're airlifting the Olympics into the city of Windsor,” said Joyce of the caliber, noting that 30 athletes who own either an Olympic or World Championship medal are diving this weekend.
“We're turning this beautiful facility into something even more stunning” Joyce said. "We anticipate some great competition over the weekend. Synchro diving can really turn the average spectator into a big fan of diving. The Canadian team is really looking forward to performing in front of the home crowd," she continued.
During a media conference held on May 29 Joyce announced that Mitch Geller, Diving Canada’s chief technical officer had made a bold prediction. Geller was sure that Canadian athletes were capable of winning a medal in every women’s event held this weekend. Aaron Dziver, one of Canada's coach was sitting next to Canadian's Olympic bronze medallist Roseline Filion on the rostrum. Both Canadians smiled confidently as their eyes locked on Geller sitting in the audience. "Mitch, your expectations now become our responsibilities. On behalf of coaches of we are excited to see the Canadian team perform well this week.” Dziver said. “These girls have been working hard to meet those goals."
Canada’s top foursome of Jennifer Abel, Pamela Ware, Meaghan Benfeito, and Filion have all stood on the podium at a World Series event this season. Ware and Abel will be among podium favourites on the 3m springboard this evening.
Benfeito and Filion have medalled at each leg of the World Series this season with a silver in Beijing and a bronze from Dubai and London in the 10m synchronised event and will be aiming for a gold medal in 10m Synchro. The pair won bronze medals at the 2012 London Games but upgraded to silver at the 2013 FINA World Championships last summer in Barcelona.
Canadian Roseline Filion in the spotlight - credit: Vaughn Ridley
Benfeito, 25 and Filion, 26 have a 10-year partnership in diving training and competition. Each have a tattoo of the Olympic rings on their foot, serving as a daily reminder that every step they take brings them closer to representing Canada at the Rio Games in 2016. Individually, both athletes have reached the World Series podium on their own, with Benfeito earning silver in London and Filion a bronze in Dubai. Filion is currently ranked fourth in the world.
According to Filion, the World Series is the perfect opportunity to try some new things.
"We dive new routines, experiment with a different order of dives, and try anything that can help us dive better. The World Series is a stepping stone to the World Cup in Shanghai and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but it's always fun to dive at home and to show the city of Windsor what the Canadian team can do."
Filion continues, "In Windsor these are the divers we will compete against in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. You can feel it in the air and I am very excited to be here. We will surely feel their energy and that allows me and my teammates to dive at our best. It's like a warm cozy blanket on a cold night."
Tom Daley, Great Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist on the 10m platform is also a fan favourite and likely a reason that the 1,000 seat venue may be sold out over the weekend.
"This is my first visit to Windsor and what I have seen is really nice. Every facility is different, every pool has its own character. I like the surface on the platform even better that the surface I train on in London. It's just a diver thing," said Daley.
Daley believes the FINA World Series "is one of the key events on the diving calendar and is an opportunity to build up competition endurance for divers who are competing in both synchro and individual events because that's an arduous schedule."