The first time I met Margarida Benfeito and Helene Filion, I was sitting in front of them as their daughters Meaghan and Roseline, half of Canada’s “Fab IV” diving team, prepared to dive in the finals for the 10m platform event. They would end up winning a bronze medal, and earning the love and respect of Canada; something they had from the start from their moms.
In the minutes after they won their medal, the two moms erupted into tears and hugs in the stands. It was hard not to feel a tiny piece of what it meant to them to get there. They celebrated with other supporters and then made their way to the girls for the medal presentation, and that moment was special. “We ran towards each other”, said Roseline, and I was thinking “Oh my god, oh my god, you did it!” says her mom Helene.
I got the chance to sit down with the four of them to talk about not just the moment of diving success, but what it took to get them there.
But first I had to ask: Who is more nervous during the diving? The moms or the daughters? “Oh, it’s worse for the moms”, Roseline said without hesitation. “They have no power, they’re just sitting down and not actually diving.” Helene agrees. “I have no power, I can’t help her, and I don’t know how she’s feeling. Is she okay?” I agreed it’s hard for any parent to give up control over their child, but when I poised the same question to Meaghan and her mom Margie, the answer was different. “Me. Definitely me.” said daughter Meaghan. And what’s going through her mind as she stands up on the platform waiting to dive? She looks me in the eye and says “Not to miss my dive.” she says, quite obviously.
But it took years and years to get to that point in time, for all four of them. In Roseline’s case, she started out in gymnastics, at age five. “And she was very good!” says proud mom Helene. But after seeing Canadian diver Annie Pelletier win bronze in 1996 in Atlanta, Roseline announced she wanted to be just like her, and at the ripe old age of nine, she switched to diving. Her base training in gymnastics would prove to be an advantage.
For Meaghan, it was similar; after watching Olympic diving at age seven, she turned to mom Margie and said “Mommy I want to do that.” Margie agreed, and tells me “I don’t push my kids; they have to want it.” Meaghan has a set of younger twin sisters, who had started down a path of synchronized swimmers. “The coach was smart”, laughs Margie “He could get two swimmers and only one parent.” But it quickly became evident that they didn’t really want to compete, not like their older sister. “The more she (Meaghan) competed, the more she loved it.” Says Margie.
Do the moms talk to their daughters about the diving? For Roseline, it’s usually her that starts the conversation, particularly if she is going through a tough time. “My Mom wants to know if I’m upset, or why I’m scared.” But Helene knows when to back off. “At a certain level, you didn’t want to talk about it”, she says to Roseline, who agrees. “As it became my life, my career, I was not wanting to talk about it.”
Meaghan admits there are times she just doesn’t want to talk about it either. “I hide in my room”, she says, before Margie can cut in with “but sometimes she’s a real motor mouth!”
So what do the mother/daughter combos do for fun together? “Shop!” say both Roseline and Helene at the same time. “Drink tea.” was the surprising answer from Margie and Meaghan. “I’ll sometimes call my Mom and ask her to start the tea when I’m on my way home”, Meaghan laughs. “We enjoy our tea together.”
As they are a part of P&G’s Thank You Mom program, I asked them to tell their moms what they would like to thank them for, at that particular moment. “Thank you for being here (in Rio)”, Roseline said to Helene. “It’s really special to have your Mom at the Olympics. Not everyone has the privilege.” And then she added, “Especially because my Mom hates to fly. This is special.” Helene laughs and adds “I don’t even like to drive in a car.”
“Thank you for putting up with my bad attitude”, says Meaghan to her mom. “You’re getting better”, Margie assures her. “I am?” says Meaghan. “Not really”, Margie laughs.
And what about the now infamous green water they dove into, shown and discussed worldwide? Margie put it best. “You’d think, after 20 years of watching our daughters dive, that we’d notice something was wrong with the water. I thought they just made it coordinate with the Rio Olympic colours.” Both girls admit they’re tired of talking about it. And truthfully the only colour they should be worried about is bronze. And maybe gold in four more years.
This post is made possible by P&G. As part of #ThankYouMom, Kathy Buckworth is in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. You can find her articles on Canadian athletes right here, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @KathyBuckworth.