Canadian divers Benfeito and McKay finding synchro chemistry after bumpy start

MONTREAL — After a bumpy start in 2017, Canadian divers Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay seem to have finally made their mark in the 10-metre tower synchronized event.

This season, they won the bronze medal in the discipline at the first two Diving World Series events in Japan and China, before coming first at the Canada Cup earlier this month in Calgary.

“It’s been great so far. The season has started really well, so that’s motivating,” said Benfeito, a triple Olympic medallist. “I cannot see myself doing synchro with anyone other than her (McKay). You know, Roseline (Filion, her former partner) is Roseline, and Caeli is Caeli. And Caeli is the right person for me right now.”

The 30-year-old Montrealer and her Calgary teammate will compete at the Montreal Diving World Series this weekend. In addition to the scheduled synchronized event on Friday, Benfeito will compete in the individual tower event the next day. The event wraps up on Sunday.

This competition will serve mainly as a test ahead of the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea in July and the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, the following month. Those will be qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“I want to ensure that Olympic spots are filled as quickly as possible at the worlds, so that 2020 is more relaxed and we can focus on our training,” Benfeito said.

In order to get there, the teammates have added a new dive to their repertoire this season.

“We’re going to be doing a back three-and-a-half on 10-metre. It’s the highest degree of difficulty that women are doing currently in synchro,” said McKay, 19.

McKay said she and Benfeito have been doing it individually for many years, but it’s only this year that they have started doing it in synchro.

“We kind of want to spice things up a little bit, and make it a little bit more fun,” she said.

Before achieving such chemistry, Benfeito and McKay went through many trials outside the pool. Benfeito first had to move beyond her former synchro partner Filion, who retired in 2017.

“I learned a lot about Caeli in 2017, about how she manages situations, and that brought us much closer,” said Benfeito.

They overcame obstacles and moved forward, she said.

“We understand each other now we know which button to push, we know when to withdraw,” Benfeito said.

Benfeito and McKay will be accompanied this weekend by many other members of the Canadian diving team, including Jennifer Abel, Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu, Philippe Gagne, Francois Imbeau-Dulac, Vincent Riendeau, Pamela Ware and Nathan Zsombor-Murray.

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