TOKYO — Canadian diver Jennifer Abel returned home from the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished fourth in two separate events, and experienced what she called an "identity crisis."
Clearly the lessons learned since then have paid off.
The 29-year-old diver from Laval, Que., is leaving Tokyo without that much-desired individual Olympic medal after finishing eighth in the three-metre springboard final on Sunday.
And though she was filled with mixed emotions after the event, Abel preferred to focus on the "big picture" of her career.
"It might sound strange, but I'm still happy," said Abel. "I'm happy because I prepared well, I came here telling myself that I would be physically and mentally ready, and I was.
"What I'm most proud of is I'm ending my day with a smile. That's something I would not have done before."
Abel was a serious contender for a third-place finish in the three-metre springboard behind the seemingly unbeatable divers from China. Her dives were extremely consistent in the preliminary and semifinal rounds over the two previous days.
But it only took one mistake on her third dive in the final to ruin it all.
Abel lacked height on the approach, compromising her entry into the water. Awarded just 39.00 points, the Canadian slipped from third to ninth place. From there, by her own admission, she needed a miracle to hope for a podium.
"I've been really stable," said Abel. "Unfortunately I missed one (dive). I wish I would have missed it in the preliminary round or semifinal, and had the opposite happen (today), but that wasn't the case.
"The mistake I made cost me a podium spot."
China continued its stranglehold on the event as Shi Tingmao retained her Olympic title. With 383.50 points, she edged out teammate Wang Han (348.75) on her final dive.
American Krysta Palmer won bronze.
Chinese women have dominated the three-metre springboard since the Seoul Olympics in 1988. The last non-Chinese winner in the event was Canada's Sylvie Bernier in Los Angeles in 1984.
Shi has finished first in all major springboard events since 2015, winning gold each time in the individual and synchro at the Olympics and world championships.
Abel, who was hoping to erase the memory of the 2016 Rio Games where she finished fourth in the individual and synchro three-metre springboard, is still returning home from Tokyo with a medal. Last week, she won silver in the synchro with teammate Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu.
Abel also won synchro bronze with Émilie Heymans at the London Games in 2012.
Pamela Ware of Greenfield Park, Que., the other Canadian entered in the event, was eliminated in the semifinal on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press