TOKYO — There was a mixture of shock and pride for Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay after they narrowly missed the podium in the women's synchronized 10-metre platform event at the Tokyo Olympics.
A mistake on the fourth dive pushed the team out of medal position, resulting in them missing the bronze by just 0.54 points.
Tuesday's performance came as McKay battled a serious ankle injury that interrupted training and left the 22-year-old essentially diving on one foot.
"Just to be here right now is a big thing for me," she said through tears.
"It’s been my childhood dream, and I moved my life to be right here, right now with her. I couldn’t jump three weeks ago; I couldn’t walk three weeks ago. So to be here, to be diving, to be an Olympian now, I’m just super proud."
McKay, a Calgary native, severely twisted her ankle in training just a few days before the Olympic trials at the end of June, tearing a number of ligaments. Her doctor suggested eight to 10 weeks of rest, but the diver said that was out of the question.
"I'm technically not even supposed to be walking without a boot right now," she said.
Under the circumstances, their fourth-place finish was an accomplishment, albeit a heartbreaking one.
"Obviously disappointed, you can’t lie about that. Everyone would be disappointed by .54 from a medal," Benfeito said.
"But what I’m extremely proud of is this girl (McKay). The last month has been extremely difficult. I think we’ve had a handful of practices together."
The Chinese team of Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi were near-flawless throughout the competition, winning gold with a total of 363.78 points.
Americans Jessica Parratto and Delaney Schnell won silver with 310.80 points, while the bronze-winning Mexican team of Gabriela Agundez Garcia and Alejandra Orozco Loza scored 299.70.
Benfeito and McKay finished just behind, with 299.16.
After three good dives to start the final round, Benfeito and McKay attempted a back three-and-a-half somersault dive, which was the most difficult of the contest. The risk did not pay off as they landed off-sync, resulting in a low score of just 51.48, the worst of the round.
Benfeito said the dive was one that had been giving her trouble recently.
"I'm not sure why, because it's a dive I did with Roseline as well," she said, referring to her former partner Roseline Filion.
But the pair decided to risk the difficult dive in the hopes of a points payoff.
"It didn't play in our favour this time, but I'm proud of our performance," McKay said.
Thirty-two-year-old Benfeito had been looking for her fourth Olympic medal, while McKay had been hoping for a first.
While she still has the individual competition to come, Benfeito suggested this Olympics could be her last.
"I think I'm finished with the Games," she said. "Three years is far away."
On the other hand, she said she doesn't want to end her Olympic career with a fourth-place finish.
"My decision isn't made 100 per cent," she said. "It gives me a little bit of a bitter taste to finish fourth, but we'll see with time. I still have the individual in a week, so I'll concentrate on that before making a decision."
As they left the press area, McKay hopped on Benfeito's back and was carried by her partner back to the locker room.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.
Marc Delbès, The Canadian Press