Diver Jennifer Abel, 27, is currently tied with diver Alexandre Despatie and swimmer Ryan Cochrane, each with eight career worlds medals.

Abel begins diving season on brink of record for most worlds medals

MONTREAL — Jennifer Abel could make history this summer in Gwangju, South Korea, as she attempts to become the most decorated Canadian athlete in the history of the world aquatics championships.

The 27-year-old Laval, Que., native is currently tied with diver Alexandre Despatie and swimmer Ryan Cochrane, each with eight career worlds medals.

A specialist in the three-metre springboard, both solo and in synchro with teammate Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu, Abel just needs one more podium to set a new record.

“It means a lot,” she said Thursday as members of the diving team met the media in Montreal. “It’s a great challenge, and I know it is very possible (to establish the record.) It would be another notch on my belt, which would be very nice.”

Even if she admits to thinking about the prestigious milestone, Abel said she is not putting too much pressure on herself.

“I can already say that I am the most decorated Canadian female diver in history,” she said. “Nobody can take that away from me. Really, I don’t work to be the best, I work for myself, to constantly improve myself.”

In any case, if she does not succeed this summer, she expects to have another chance at the 2021 world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

“I don’t think any athlete my age does not think about (retiring), because four years is a long time,” she said, referring to the time between Olympics. “Especially for a woman, because I would love to start a family one day.” She said the 2020 Tokyo Games will be her last Olympics, but she plans to compete in the 2021 worlds.

Meaghan Benfeito, the oldest member of the Canadian diving team at 29, also says Tokyo will be her last Olympics. But she does not want to end her career there.

“I would like to do another year, to say goodbye to everyone, but those will be my last Olympics, that’s 100 per cent certain,” she said. “I’m ready to move on to something else, to wake up in the morning and not have to go to the pool.”

The two Quebecers will try to secure spots at the Tokyo Games as quickly as possible. To get there, they will need a strong showing at the Gwangju worlds in July and the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in August.

Meanwhile, Abel, Benfeito, Citrini-Beaulieu, Pamela Ware, Philippe Gagne, Francois Imbeau-Dulac, Vincent Riendeau and all their teammates on the Canadian team will leave Sunday for the first two stages of the diving world series, March 1-3 in Sagamihara, Japan, and March 7-9 in Beijing.

The team will return to Montreal for the third stop of the world series, April 26-28.

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