World Cup: Young Canadians host the world in Montreal
For the most elite divers on earth, the second of the three-stop World Cup season approaches full speed as a group of young Canadians prepare to host in springtime Montreal.
Of the 10 Canucks competing, seven were born in 2001 or later including 10m synchro teammates Rylan Wiens, 21, and Nathan Zsombor-Murray, 20, the country’s latest podium threat following their historic bronze from last summer’s Worlds. It was Canada’s first-ever Worlds medal in the men’s event.
The pair spent the fall and winter working to build on that success.
“I made a lot of improvements this year. And last year, especially in terms of my diving. And I think that those performances certainly helped motivate me,” says Pointe Claire’s Zsombor-Murray, “After getting a medal at the Worlds, I sort of realized that it’s totally possible for me to medal at the Olympics.”
The Olympic Games and World Championships tend to feature a similar level of competition, followed by World Cups.
The field in Montreal will include a formidable Chinese team that won all nine available gold medals at the season opening World Cup in Xi’an, China last month.
“China has always been the golden standard, as long as I’ve been diving. But it’ll be exciting to go up there and be able to compete against them and see if we can push them,” says Wiens, “It’s always exciting to be able to compete with the Chinese and really show that we do belong in the top couple in the world.”
China is led by three-time World champion Yang Hao and two-time Olympic medallist Chen Yuxi, the latter of whom burst onto the scene as a 15 year-old at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fellow teenager, Edmonton’s Renée Batalla, is the youngest Canadian competing at 16 years-old. This is the first-ever World Cup for last year’s World Junior silver medallist on 10m platform.
“With it only being my second year ever doing senior I can allow myself to let loose and just have fun with it rather than having to focus on, ‘I need to win this’. Plus, if I’m loose and relaxed and having fun. That actually increases my chances,” says Batalla.
Batalla was recently added to the senior national team roster. She spent a couple of formative diving years stymied by the pandemic. With early pool closures she would stay active however she could, sometimes doing exercises from a workout plan at home.
The former national champion will challenge the 10m event along with Olympians Caeli McKay and Celina Toth, two of the three Canadians born before the current millennium.
The third is two-time Olympian Pam Ware, 30, who will dive in her first major competition since Tokyo 2020.
The Montrealer spent last season working on the mental side of her game following a disappointing setback in Tokyo.
During the springboard semifinal, Ware made a mistake on her approach and was forced to pull up, scoring zero points.
Ware says she spent the following year rebuilding her confidence.
“Last year every time I stepped on the board I had a flashback of falling off. I was not confident. I was scared. I was frayed,” Ware admits. “And this year, my mindset coming in was just ‘let it go’.”
Ware will compete in 3m, 3m synchro, and the team event.
“I’m just super excited. And I’m really happy to be back on that team,” says Ware.
Other Canadians to watch in Montreal include springboard Worlds medallist Mia Vallée, Ottawa’s Kate Miller, Victoria’s Bryden Hattie, and Calgary’s Margo Erlam.
The 2023 World Aquatics Diving World Cup in Montreal runs May 5-7 at the Olympic Park Sports Center.
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