AN EMOTIONAL BRONZE MEDAL
Santiago, October 21, 2023 – Caeli McKay won the Canadian diving team’s first medal at the 2023 Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile, on Saturday. The Albertan experienced a full range of emotions during the 10m platform final, but finished on a high note to claim the third spot on the podium.
For McKay, it all came down to the fifth and final dive, where she was able to rise above the pressure and achieve her goal. The young veteran, who was in provisional fourth place before her final dive, earned 76.80 points for her double somersault and half back with one and a half twists, bringing her overall score to 335.65, which was good for bronze.
Gabriela Agundez (361,55) and Alejandra Orozco (340,80), both form Mexico, achieved a one-two finish on the podium.
“I’m really proud of myself, despite everything that happened tonight. I knew my final dive had to be perfect, so that’s what I did. It’s not necessarily the medal I was hoping for, but I’m still very satisfied with my work,” said McKay as she descended from the podium.
The evening had gotten off to a flying start for the Canadian, who took the provisional lead right from the outset with a score of 79.50 points on her first dive—her best of the entire round. With her second dive, the 24-year-old slipped down a spot, before plummeting to ninth place following a difficult third attempt.
“I made a huge error. I almost lost control in the air, and it gave me a scare,” admitted McKay. “After that, I knew I had to overcome my fear and come back strong if I wanted to make the podium.”
And that’s exactly what the Olympian and 2023 World Championships bronze medallist did. Following up with two dives that were executed to her high standards, she climbed back up to third place and finished the day with a smile on her face.
“My goal was really to win, but I can’t be disappointed, either! I was very nervous, but I got over it, and I’m proud of myself. It was a big day with a lot of emotional ups and downs, and I’m going to sleep very well tonight,” laughed McKay, who had dominated Friday’s qualification rounds.
This was McKay’s third Pan-American Games medal. She finished second in the same event in Lima in 2019, behind Meaghan Benfeito, with whom she won gold in the synchronized event.
McKay will have the opportunity to defend that title on Monday, when she teams up with Kate Miller of Ottawa.
“As always, our goal is to win! The competition will be stiff, especially with the Mexicans, but we have faith in our abilities, and we’re looking forward to demonstrating how far we’ve progressed,” concluded McKay.
Also participating in the first diving final of the Games was Celina Toth, who finished eleventh with 247.75 points. “To be honest, I was well prepared, but I had a few problems this week and I wasn’t able to properly demonstrate how prepared I was,” explained the 31-year-old, who is competing in the first Pan-American Games of her career.
“I had more energy today, and I’m happy with my performance,” she said. “I gave my all in the final, I improved with each dive, and I finished well. It’s very exciting to compete at this type of event, and I’m enjoying every moment.”
The only other Canadian in competition on Saturday was Thomas Ciprick, who had to withdraw from the men’s 1m springboard final due to an allergic reaction. Earlier in the day, the Calgarian had placed ninth in the preliminary rounds, with a total of 327.60 points.
The diving events will continue on Sunday in Santiago. Four Canadians will be in action. Nathan Zsombor-Murray and Rylan Wiens will test their mettle in the men’s 10m synchronized event. Their teammates Pamela Ware and Mia Vallée will compete in the 1m event.