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Canadian Olympian glad to be home, diving in front of family, friends in Saanich

Past year tumultuous for Celina Toth, at 30 the ‘mom’ on the Boardworks crew

Taking time off to recuperate and focus on other things for a while can often do the body good.

Canadian Olympian, 10-metre platform specialist and Boardworks club member Celina Toth planned to do just that after the 2020 Tokyo Games – held in 2021. Her goal was to head south, do some coaching and work toward her degree in social work, with a specialty in drugs and addiction.

Having actively competed in diving for close to 20 years, she was ready for a break, but a twinge she felt after completing her final dive in Tokyo told her she wasn’t quite done. She vowed to take it year by year and see how she felt, and enrolled at the University of South Carolina to pursue her new dreams. But the experience was not what she hoped for, Toth told Black Press Media.

In a nutshell, she made the difficult decision to forego the educational opportunity, return to her adopted hometown of Greater Victoria and put diving back on the front burner, with the goal in mind of qualifying for Canada’s 2022 Commonwealth Games team heading to Birmingham, England in August.

Just how ready she is, after only a month of in-pool training, will be on display when Saanich Commonwealth Place hosts the Summer Senior National Championships May 27 to 29.

“I had to see if this was something I still wanted to do at this level,” said Toth, at 30 the oldest of the seven Boardworks divers competing in the event, which is also a qualifier for the 2022 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary June 26 to July 3.

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“We know I’m not going to be 100 per cent ready. It’s been nine months since I dove competitively. My body is not handling it very well – it was basically going from zero to 100, and I got sick. But I have 18 years of experience, so in that sense, I’ll know what to do. But it’ll be difficult mentally.”

While many will be watching Toth’s progress, Canada’s other top divers are competing, including Tokyo Olympians Pamela Ware, Caeli McKay, Rylans Weins and Nathan Zsombor-Murray.

From a local perspective, family and friends will get a chance to see the Boardworks divers compete on a big stage at home for the first time in years.

“They’re very excited, especially after COVID and not being to be able to compete in front of a crowd,” said Lisa Boog, Boardworks assistant coach and general manager.

Other senior local divers competing include 21-year-old Tanesha Lucoe, who won women’s 10-metre gold at the winter nationals in early April in Saskatoon and shone for the University of Alabama this past college season, and Bryden Hattie, 20, who competed in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games and just finished his second year at the University of Tennesee. Lucoe will compete in the 10-metre platform and one-metre springboard, while Hattie competes in the one and three-metre springboard events.

Boardworks juniors competing in their second senior nationals in two months include 17-year-old Carson Paul (men’s 10-metre); Keira Lu (women’s one- and three-metre) and Kayden Hayes (women’s 10-metre), both 16, and 15-year-old Renee Battalla (women’s 10-metre).

Battalla is the 2022 British Elite national champion and won gold in the Pan-American Junior Championships last year, while Paul and Lu are past junior Pan-Am medallists.

The schedule sees the women’s one-metre and men’s three-metre springboard go Friday (May 27), with preliminaries followed by the final. Saturday sees the men’s one-metre springboard and women’s 10-metre platform prelims and final, then Sunday’s wrap-up features the women’s three-metre and men’s 10-metre events. The top eight divers from preliminaries advance to the final.

The competition starts at 10 a.m. all three days and admission is free.

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