New faces among the world’s women’s springboard elite
The FINA World Championships have begun and showcase a few newcomers to the Canadian team, notably in the women’s springboard events. Mia Vallée and Margo Erlam are representing Canada for the very first time and rub shoulders with the best in the world at this prestigious event being held in Budapest, Hungary.
The two young divers have had an incredible start to the season, standing out on the national stage and at the Canada Cup Grand Prix event. At last May’s Summer Nationals, Vallée dominated every springboard round, from prelims to finals, both on the 1m and 3m. Erlam finished second at both these events, earning her spot for the World Championships.
With the departure of many veterans following the Tokyo Olympics, national team spots were up for grabs. Kirkland’s Mia Vallée and Calgary’s Margo Erlam both felt that it was their time to shine.
“Jennifer Abel’s retirement automatically freed up a spot for whoever wanted it – and that was front of mind for me. It was the first time in more than eight years that there was truly an opening. It was doubly stressful because I knew I had a chance. For the first time in my life, I was really competing for a spot at Worlds. I think the added stress helped me dig deep and come up with my best stuff”, explained Vallée.
The 21-year-old diver gained mounds of confidence over the last few months. Her recent results helped her realize that she belongs among the world’s elite.
“I’ve gained some confidence that I didn’t have six months ago. Over the last few years, after I moved to the States to study and because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to compete in as many events as I would have liked and I wasn’t as confident in myself”, shared Vallée, who studies at the University of Miami and competes on the NCAA Diving circuit.
Her confidence started building back in February when she beat her personal best at the ACC Diving and Swimming Championships, earning gold at the 3m springboard with over 412 points. Her journey continued at the Summer Nationals, where she dominated, then at Canada Cup, where she came away with silver in the 3m individual event.
“I think that my results this past year show that all the hard work that I’ve put in was worth it. I’ve worked so hard these last few years. I’m now where I want to be. I can stop second-guessing myself. I know what to do and how to do it. I feel very confident”, added Vallée.
Earning a spot for the World Championships was also Margo Erlam’s goal this season. After winning gold at Winter Nationals last April in the 3m springboard, the 20-year-old knew she was diving well enough to get there.
“I would say it wasn’t a surprise for me but rather a huge relief. I knew I could do it and now that I’m qualified for Worlds, I am relieved. I felt a lot of pressure, but that pressure came from within. Everybody was cheering me on, telling me I could do it. I had so much support”, shared Erlam.
And just like her teammate Vallée, this will be the most prestigious senior competition to date for Erlam, who has been training in Saskatoon for a number of years. She will be able to draw from her experience at the World Junior Championships but is fully aware that the level will be much higher.
“I feel really good heading into the World Championships. Obviously, I’m a little nervous since it’s my first competition among such accomplished divers. I’m excited to see how I’ll adapt. What I’m hoping for is to stay calm and do my best”, Erlam said.
Photo: Antoine Saito
A promising partnership
In addition to diving in the individual events, Mia Vallée and Margo Erlam will join forces for Canada at the World Championships in the 3m synchro event. The pair only started diving together in May, shortly before the Futures Cup, held in England. However, the budding partnership has been successful with Vallée and Erlam winning gold at the Canadian Grand Prix stop in June.
“Since both Margo and I were diving at the Futures Cup, we were asked to try and dive together, just to see. I was a little skeptical at first because I didn’t really think that our styles matched very well. But honestly, all we needed was one training session and a few little adjustments for everything to click”, marveled Vallée.
The two divers have known each other for years and had no issues building a great bond.
“Mia and I haven’t done a lot of synchro together but each time we’ve had the chance, it’s gone very well. We’re also roommates when we travel. It’s great. We’re always laughing. We were really close when we were younger but she left to go study in the United States and we lost touch. It’s great to have her back”, declared Erlam.
In their short partnership, the pair already had to dig deep to overcome challenging moments at Canada Cup.
“After only two competitions, we are already building a solid foundation of trust. We cheer each other on between dives. At the Grand Prix, I missed a dive and she really put me back on track. We’re building a great partnership that I hope can continue into the future”, added Vallée.
But even beyond their own 3m synchro partnership, the two athletes highlighted the extent to which the Canadian team has bonded since the beginning of the season. They believe that the great atmosphere within the team really contributes to their successes.
“The team is so much fun right now. I’ve never been part of a more enjoyable Team Canada squad. We’re all so close and we support each other. We are good friends, it makes everything easier “, concluded Erlam.
Margo Erlam and Mia Vallée are set to compete in the women’s 1m final on Wednesday, June 29th at 11am EST, in the women’s 3m event on July 1st and the women’s 3m synchro event on July 3rd at the FINA Diving World Championships. They will also represent Canada at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August.
To view the schedule of events: https://www.fina.org/competitions/2902/19th-fina-world-championships-budapest-2022/schedule?phase=All&disciplines
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