Div­ing for gold

Canada’s Rio-bound div­ing squad open up about their sis­ter­hood, strug­gles and pool­side beauty se­crets

The Kit - - Front Page - BY NATASHA BRUNO | PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAYLA ROCCA

Strength, flex­i­bil­ity, co­or­di­na­tion and grace: Th­ese are just some of the skills com­pet­i­tive divers need to jump off a spring­board and per­form a range of som­er­saults, pikes and twists in mid-air be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into the wa­ter with barely a splash. Per­fect­ing a world-class rou­tine wor­thy of the Olympics takes years of ded­i­ca­tion and prac­tice, some­thing Rose­line Fil­ion, Pamela Ware, Jen­nifer Abel and Meaghan Ben­feito un­der­stand. The sea­soned divers from Que­bec known as the Fab IV (the nick­name has its own Twit­ter han­dle) will be wear­ing the maple leaf at the 2016 Rio Sum­mer Games, rep­re­sent­ing Canada in both in­di­vid­ual and syn­chro­nized events. Abel and Ware will com­pete in the women’s 3-me­tre spring­board events, while Ben­feito and Fil­ion will dive off the ver­tig­i­nous 10-me­tre plat­form.

For nearly a decade, the four­some have been train­ing and trav­el­ling the world to­gether for com­pe­ti­tions. Devoted full­time to their sport, they train in­tensely for up to six hours on a typ­i­cal week­day. To get through that grind, they turn to each other for mo­ti­va­tion. “It’s eas­ier to [travel for com­pe­ti­tions] and go to the pool ev­ery day when you have your best friends be­side you,” says Abel. Fil­ion con­curs: “They’re my sis­ters.”

While gear­ing up for Rio, the ath­letes have signed on as brand am­bas­sadors for Gil­lette Venus, a nat­u­ral fit since cam­era close-ups come with the ter­ri­tory. “There are so many peo­ple watch­ing you on the board,” says Fil­lion. ( It’s also eas­ier to grab onto clean-shaven legs in tight po­si­tions like tucks, ex­plains Ben­feito.)

Dur­ing a div­ing tri­als com­pe­ti­tion at the Toronto Pan Am Games Sports Cen­tre last month, the squad took a rare time out to talk about over­com­ing in­se­cu­ri­ties and the long road to Rio.

ROSE­LINE FIL­ION, 29

Home­town: Laval, Que.

Start­ing out: A two-time Olympian, Fil­ion was a gym­nast un­til she watched a Cana­dian div­ing per­for­mance dur­ing the 1996 At­lanta Games. “I saw An­nie Pel­letier from Mon­treal win­ning a bronze medal, and I told my par­ents I wanted to be just like her,” she says. Chal­lenges over­come: As a teenager, Fil­ion had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with food. “I was never anorexic, but I used to hate food be­cause it would make me un­com­fort­able. I wasn’t eat­ing the right things for my body,” she ex­plains. For the past eight years, Fil­ion has been work­ing closely with a nu­tri­tion­ist. “It’s about ed­u­ca­tion,” she ex­plains. “If I fuel my body right, the ma­chine will go fast. It was a big learn­ing process, and now I feel re­ally con­fi­dent.”

Pool-beauty strat­egy: Fil­ion loves the ease of eye­lash ex­ten­sions, but div­ing and her non-stop travel hin­der up­keep. “It’s a lot to take care of when you’re away be­cause they’re al­ways fall­ing off.” Con­stantly plung­ing into chlo­ri­nated wa­ter also leaves her skin dry and blotchy. “The pools are al­ways dif­fer­ent,” she says. “Some­times you get to another coun­try and you don’t even know if that’s chlo­rine in there. You have croc­o­dile skin.” To help soothe it post-swim, she slathers on a good mois­tur­izer. “There’s never enough cream!” she says.

PAMELA WARE, 23

Home­town: Green­field Park, Que. Start­ing out: The youngest of the troop and a first-time Olympian, Ware started on her ca­reer path with a chal­lenge from her fa­ther 17 years ago. “I was play­ing in a pub­lic pool with my sis­ter, and my dad told us that if we did a front flip, he’d buy us a Pop­si­cle, and if we did a back flip, he’d bring us to Dairy Queen,” she says. Ware nailed both— at six years old— and a life­guard who wit­nessed the scene gave her fam­ily the num­ber of a div­ing club. Chal­lenges over­come: To­day, even af­ter years of prac­ti­cally liv­ing in a bathing suit, Ware still strug­gles with dis­com­fort when she slips one on. “I don’t like my hips. I think that’s ev­ery fe­male’s prob­lem— the y don’t like some­thing about their body,” she says. But she doesn’t let her dis­com­fort get in the way. “Div­ing is my pas­sion. I’m al­ways go­ing to go for what I love, so I put on a bathing suit ev­ery day.” Pool-beauty strat­egy: To pro­tect her fine hair from the ef­fects of chlo­rine, Ware has em­braced the swim cap, sham­poos only ev­ery two to three days and rinses her hair right af­ter swim­ming. “My hair stopped grow­ing at one point so I’ve been wear­ing the cap for a year now,” she says. “My nat­u­ral oils came back, my hair is a lot health­ier, and it started grow­ing again.”

JEN­NIFER ABEL, 24

Home­town: Mon­treal

Start­ing out: Abel started div­ing at the age of four, fol­low­ing in her brother’s foot­steps. “I was do­ing syn­chro­nized swim­ming but wanted to be ex­actly like my brother,” she ex­plains. “I asked my par­ents to put me into div­ing and they did.” At 16, Abel burst onto the in­ter­na­tional scene at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, be­com­ing one of the youngest Cana­dian divers to com­pete on the world stage.

Chal­lenges over­come: De­scribed as the girlie-girl of the group by her team­mates, Abel has strug­gled with her tex­tured hair. She pre­vi­ously used chem­i­cal straight­en­ers to smooth out her kinks, but af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ma­jor hair da­m­age, she chopped it off in 2014 and started from scratch. “I cried so much. It’s very hard,” she says, ex­plain­ing that she’s work­ing on the self-con­fi­dence to let her curls go free. “I’m just not there yet. It’s not long enough, so I al­ways have my hair tie.” To help it get to a happy length, Abel has adopted a break­age-re­duc­ing reg­i­men. “I started wear­ing my bathing cap be­cause I want it to grow health­ier and faster, and I have a silk pil­low­case.”

Pool-beauty strat­egy: Chlo­rine leaves Abel’s dark skin ashy and lips parched, so a standby mois­tur­izer and lip balm are key. As part of her nat­u­ral hair rou­tine, Abel works a shea but­ter po­made into her hair af­ter a shower at the pool, combs it through, then puts her hair up.

“I saw An­nie Pel­letier from Mon­treal win­ning a bronze medal, and I told my par­ents I wanted to be just like her.”

MEAGHAN BEN­FEITO, 27

Home­town: Mon­treal

Start­ing out: Orig­i­nally a com­pet­i­tive swim­mer, Ben­feito started div­ing at the age of seven af­ter she got hooked on the ex­cite­ment of fly­ing through the air. “In the last five min­utes of ev­ery swim prac­tice they would bring us to the div­ing boards. The adren­a­line felt re­ally cool,” she says. Ben­feito was also cap­ti­vated watch­ing now-re­tired Olympians Alexan­der Des­patie and Ém­i­lie Hey­mans, who trained at the same pool. Chal­lenges over­come: Ben­feito has had a rough sea­son, lead­ing to self-doubt about her abil­i­ties. Luck­ily, a pep talk from an exec at Div­ing Canada helped her re­bound and un­lock the door to Rio. “The fact that he be­lieved in me and came to talk to me com­pletely turned the switch back on,” she says. “Usu­ally when the boss comes and speaks to you, it’s a prob­lem. But at that mo­ment, I was like, ‘Okay. I got this!’”

Pool-beauty strat­egy: On com­pe­ti­tion day, Ben­feito never hits the div­ing plat­form with­out a Shel­lac pedi­cure (reg­u­lar pol­ish doesn’t hold up against the wa­ter’s im­pact) be­cause cam­eras are al­ways zoom­ing in on her feet. “I have my own ma­chine at home!” she says.

“The fact that [an exec at Div­ing Canada] be­lieved in me and came to talk to me com­pletely turned the switch back on. Usu­ally when the boss comes and speaks to you, it’s a prob­lem. But at that mo­ment, I was like, ‘Okay, I got this!’”

SARAH WELLS COL­LEC­TION TOP, $25, WIN­NERS. GAP­FIT PANTS, $50, GAP­CANADA.CA ROSE­LINE

JOE FRESH TOP, $16, JOE­FRESH.COM. ON THE COVER: OLD NAVY AC­TIVE TOP, $20, OLD­NAVY.CA. GAP­FIT LEG­GINGS, $50, GAP­CANADA.CA PAMELA

GAP­FIT TOP, $45, GAP­CANADA.CA. OLD NAVY AC­TIVE LEG­GINGS, $33, OLD­NAVY.CA MEAGHAN

OLD NAVY FRESH JOE

AC­TIVE TOP, $20, OLD­NAVY.CA. PANTS, $29, JOE­FRESH.COM JEN­NIFER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.