The splash is being made in Saanich. But the spray will be felt in Tokyo. The Canadian qualifying process in diving for the 2020 Summer Olympics began with Victoria Boardworks diver Bryden Hattie making a breakthrough at the national championships being hosted at his home Commonwealth Place pool.
Hattie was second behind 2016 Rio Olympian Vincent Riendeau of Pointe-Claire, Que., in the men’s 10-metre platform. The other winner Saturday was Olympic-medallist Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., in the women’s three-metre springboard. Three-time Olympic medallist Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal competes in her individual events today, as does defending Canadian women’s 10-metre champion Celine Toth from Boardworks.
The top divers from this weekend will represent Canada at the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea, which is a direct qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Diving has been one of Canada’s most reliable podium producers in the Summer Olympics, with 12 medals since 1984.
“It’s exciting. I was not really expecting it. It doesn’t feel real yet,” said Hattie, 17, about qualifying for the worlds.
“Consistency was the key today. The goal now is Tokyo.”
Hattie, the Canadian men’s 10-metre synchro champion and a 2018 Youth Olympic Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games finalist, is part of a host of young talent emerging on the men’s side for Canada.
“All the drama is on the boys’ side now with a whole new tidal wave of talent coming up,” said Mitch Geller, the founder of Victoria Boardworks, and now chief technical officer for Diving Canada.
The Canadian women, meanwhile, are a veteran group with Abel eying her fourth Olympics.
“Today was a very strong day for me,” she said, of her three-metre national crown.
“I want to continue getting better and stronger as this very important season progresses.”
The 29-year-old Benfeito, meanwhile, is a three-time bronze medallist over two Olympic Games at London in 2012 and Rio in 2016. She is aiming for the Olympic trifecta in Tokyo.
“It’s great that the boys are coming up,” said Benfeito.
“It pushes me and makes me work harder. I remember when I was the youngest diver on the national team. Now I’m one of the oldest and try to lead by example. A lot of it for me now is staying healthy.”
In this year’s biggest multi-sport Games competition, Canada won six diving medals at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, with the highlights being Abel's gold and Benfeito’s and Phillipe Gagne’s two silvers each.
The three-day Canadian championships, which are also the national qualifier for the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, conclude today at Saanich Commonwealth Place from 10 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., with preliminaries in the morning and finals in the afternoon.
Admission is free.