“Okay, let’s go. We got this. You can do it.”
Then it’s “Ready?” “Yes.” “Okay. 1, 2, 3, go.”
That was the scene as the sun set over the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre in Rio on Tuesday as they went for their fifth and final dive that would either give them a second straight medal in the 10m synchro event or leave them empty-handed in their last Olympic Games together. Filion has said she won’t be competing at Tokyo 2020.
As always, they chose to close with a back 2 ½ somersault with 1 ½ twists, the best dive in their repertoire. Hitting it almost perfectly, they received 8.0s and 8.5s for the execution and synchronization, totalling 80.64 points for their highest scoring dive of the event.
It put them back on the bronze medal step of the podium, making them the first pair in the Olympic history of the event to win multiple medals.
“We were going there attacking. We knew that the medal wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to fight for it,” said Filion. “The last dive, (coach) Arturo (Miranda) looked at us and said ‘We need this one girls, let’s do it, we need it.’”
It had been a highly competitive event, with duos from China, Malaysia, North Korea and Great Britain all putting forward their best efforts. Tied for second after the first two compulsory dives, Benfeito and Filion found themselves in fourth place after the third dive before falling to fifth one dive later.
Except they actually didn’t know that.
“For the first time I think in my 11 years with Rosie, I didn’t look at the scoreboard so I had no idea where we were. I didn’t know that we needed a really, really good dive,” said Benfeito. “We really just had confidence in each other. It’s not for nothing that we’ve been diving for 11 years together.”
“I usually look at the scoreboard so I’m really happy I didn’t this time,” she later reiterated. “I probably would have freaked out.”
The only thing they knew was that the Koreans, who had been brilliant throughout the event, had just had a huge miss. And that was only because it happened right in front of them. With the door open, they walked right through it, erasing the 5.46-point deficit and more.
It had been a tough season for the pair, filled with uncertainty after Filion broke her right ankle in December. But it also helped each of them learn more about themselves and what they need to succeed.
“At the beginning when it happened, I thought ‘this was it’,” Filion said of the chance that she wouldn’t be healed in time to compete in Rio. “I believed still that it was possible, but I really didn’t know and I was definitely scared. But I was most scared of not having time to train.”
That fear disappeared as they went into the last period of pre-Olympic training.
“I was like ‘why was I worrying? I have a lot of time’.”
She also had a lot of support from her partner.
“She put all her energy on me,” Filion said of Benfeito. “She didn’t have to do it but she wanted me to be well and she forgot herself through that whole period.”
Whether it was driving her to the pool, to the gym, to home, or texting every day or following up on doctor appointments, Benfeito did just about everything but physically carry Filion during her recovery process.
“When I got back into the pool she modified her diving at the beginning competitions to make sure we were in sync. She was jumping lower because I didn’t have my full strength back,” said Filion. “That’s why I can’t ask for a better partner, a better friend. She did it for me and it’s rare the people who would do that for somebody.”
“That’s the reason we cried. You saw a lot of tears of joy after we found out we were third,” said Benfeito. “It’s really different than the bronze medal in London. We’ve had a very hard season, not knowing if she was going to be able to come back, a lot of doubts, but she’s strong and I’m ecstatic to be an Olympic medallist with her again.”
For one last time.