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Meet Caeli, a diver on Team Canada

6 Dec 2020

It’s officially December, the month renowned for being fun and festive, when people usually dive wholeheartedly into the holidays! Far from letting this past year dampen their spirits, many are taking the time this season to look back at how they’ve overcome the difficulties 2020 has placed in their path.

“This year was supposed to be the year my Olympic dream came true,” says Canadian diver Caeli McKay. Despite the roadblocks she has faced, the 21-year-old Calgary native has taken this opportunity to look at the bigger picture: “I really had to learn to talk positively to myself. It was really me being happy with who I was without diving. I didn’t want things to define me as a person.”

Caeli’s plunge into professional diving led her away from her hometown. She now lives in Montreal where she trains in synchro diving alongside her role model, Meaghan Benfeito, as a member of Diving Plongeon Canada’s senior national team. “Since I don’t live at home anymore, I only get to see my family once or twice a year. Christmas is all about spending time with them. Not just giving gifts, but enjoying the presence of each other.”

Though they may look a little different this year, Caeli's family traditions are ones she cherishes: opening presents in the morning to work up an appetite for a big Christmas breakfast, getting out to Banff with her family... No matter the situation, we're certain Caeli will be able to celebrate in a way that brings comfort and joy to her heart.

Her family's shared passion for getting their heart rate up definitely had a ripple effect on the career Caeli chose for herself. “My whole family are adrenaline junkies, so it was natural for me to find something that I could show my natural power. In diving, no one is the same and you always have a uniqueness to yourself. I’ve had to work a lot on my confidence as a strong-looking woman. I’ve really had to change the way I think about it and be proud of how strong I am and how high I can jump. I’ve realized that’s the stuff that sets me apart.”

When things shut down, Caeli had to deal with the challenges of not being able to pursue her passion. So, she got creative! “I’ve been diving for 15 years and I’ve never been out of the pool longer than 3 weeks. There’s no way to replicate being on a thirty-foot tower in your living room. I really had to adapt and find ways to challenge my mind and body. I was doing fast flips on a bed mattress and squatting my boyfriend just to try and lighten the mood and keep things fun.”

When the pool reopened in June, it revealed its own set of challenges: “It was really all about rewiring our brains to get back into the groove. It took about a month and a half to get comfortable again and to trust myself. We were all there thinking: Do we remember how to do this? But, we just had to start trusting ourselves again.”

Despite living in a world where much is still up in the air, some things are certain. When asked where she sees herself in five years, Caeli dreams of making waves. “I hope to see myself as an Olympian, a role model in diving, and hopefully leading the national team in Canada!”

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