'We got chills': Canada's Vallee, Ware win bronze in 3m synchro at Diving World Cup

·5 min read

MONTREAL — Canada's Mia Vallee and Pamela Ware reached the podium at the World Aquatics Diving World Cup on Friday — and they were the last ones to know it.

"We weren't watching the scores, we didn't know how any other team was diving," said Ware from the Olympic Pool. "When we got around the water on that last dive and (Vallee's) family was screaming so loud, she didn't even believe it.

"She was standing there like, 'did we win a medal?' I was like, 'it looks like it!'"

Scroll to continue with content

"We got chills," they both added.

Ware, 30, and the 22-year-old Vallee capped off their bronze-medal performance in the women's synchronized three-metre springboard with a two-and-a-half somersault, one twist pike that scored 72.90 points — their highest of the event.

That gave them a cumulative score of 302.61, which beat the fourth-place Australians by 0.84 points.

Chang Yani and Chen Yiwen of China won gold with 329.43, while Americans Sarah Bacon and Kassidy Cook captured silver with a score of 315.09.

Making the moment even more special for the Canadians, who had just begun practising together on Tuesday, was the chance to do it in front of friends and family. Vallee is from Beaconsfield, Que., on Montreal's West Island, Ware was born just across the St. Lawrence River in Greenfield Park, Que.

Fans sporting red filled the stands, though instead of wearing usual Team Canada apparel, these spectators had "Team Mia & Pam" branded T-shirts.

The concept started at last year's world championships when Vallee's boyfriend decided to bring 10 "Team Mia" T-shirts, and it grew from there.

For Friday's competition they added "Pam" to the design, something that will likely continue with the early returns from the duo.

"In synchro, it’s important to have confidence in yourself, but having confidence in your teammate is incredibly important," said Vallee. "I think this medal shows that we both have this confidence."

Vallee hadn't performed in Montreal since 2015, spending most of her time competing south of the border in the NCAA for the University of Miami. She had over 30 fans there to support her, and said she expects many more to come throughout the weekend.

"Most of these people that are here have never seen me compete or dive at all," Vallee said. "They always follow me online and everything, they're always behind me but never in person.

"It was so incredible to see."

For Ware, it's a major comeback after being forced to pull up from a dive at the Tokyo Olympics and spending a year working on the mental side of her game.

"Last year was so hard, like mentally I was just not there," said Ware, who was competing in first major event on Friday since the Games.

"Now I got my confidence back in this competition today, and I just showed that I am back."

Both divers will compete again Saturday in the individual three-metre preliminaries with a chance to advance to Sunday's final.

Earlier in the pool, Rylan Wiens of Pike Lake, Sask., and Pointe Claire, Que.'s Nathan Zsombor-Murray finished seventh in the men’s 10-metre platform synchronized event.

“We can't win them all, obviously, but this is going to push us to work harder, protect our diets even more, train even harder in synchro," said Wiens. "We're hungry for the next one. So yeah, we'll be there.”

Lian Junjie and Yang Hao of China captured gold, Kirill Boliukh and Oleksii Sereda of Ukraine won silver and Noah Williams and Matthew Lee of Britain earned bronze.

Wiens and Zsmobor-Murray finished with a combined score of 360.99 points, 95.73 behind the leaders.

The duo, which was in second after the first round, steadily dropped in the standings after scoring below expectations on three dives, including a reverse three-and-a-half somersaults tuck for their fifth that scored a 46.92 and saw them drop from sixth to eighth.

Despite missing the podium together on Friday, the two divers represent a new era of international medal hopefuls in men's diving, something Canada hasn't had much of since Alex Despatie retired in 2013.

"The women divers have always been strong in Canada, but since Alex we haven’t really had international medals on the men’s side, so it’s an honour," said Zsombor-Murray on Wednesday. "I think it's an honour to feel like we're the ones now. We're the ones that are capable of bringing a medal in for our country."

Wiens and Zsombor-Murray aren't done for the weekend, either. Both divers will compete individually in the men’s 10-metre platform preliminary rounds on Saturday.

Bryden Hattie, a 21-year-old from Victoria, advanced to the men’s three-metre springboard final on Sunday by finishing eighth with a 393.90 score in the preliminaries.

Caeli McKay, a 23-year-old Tokyo Olympian from Calgary, and 31-year-old Celina Toth of Victoria both advanced to the women’s 10-metre platform final on Sunday. Victoria’s Renee Batalla, Canada’s youngest diver in the event at 16 years old, missed the cut.

The event continues with more individual preliminary rounds on Saturday morning, with the women’s 10-metre synchro and men’s three-metre synchro finals following in the afternoon.

The individual finals and team event will on be on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: CORRECTS spelling in para 3.