Saskatchewan divers embrace rare Olympic training camp at home

Click to play video: 'Canadian Olympic diving team sets up shop in Saskatoon for rare western training camp'
Canadian Olympic diving team sets up shop in Saskatoon for rare western training camp
WATCH: National team divers Rylan Wiens and Margo Erlam got the opportunity to host their Canadian teammates in Saskatoon, training ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics this summer – May 31, 2024

Throughout her diving career, Margo Erlam knows what it’s like to take a leap of faith.

Moving provinces from her hometown of Calgary to Saskatoon at 16 years old, Erlam joined a new diving club and community with few previous connections all in the hopes of bettering her training in the pool.

Six years later, she’s preparing to dive for Team Canada at her first Olympic Games in Paris.

“I think once we head to Edinburgh for our training camp it will start to a little more real,” said Erlam. “Once I hit the [Olympic Village] I think it will all hit me at once, so I’m prepared for that moment.”
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Erlam is one of five athletes who will be wearing the maple leaf in diving at the 2024 Olympics, meeting the Olympic standard in the three-metre springboard at the Canadian trials earlier this month in Windsor, Ont., to achieve a dream that’s been in the back of her mind since her earliest days in the pool.

“That was probably one of the most emotional days I’ve had in my career,” said Erlam. “It was something special, I knew when I hit the water that I had done it. This is something that I’ve been working for my whole life.”

It was an emotional moment for her Saskatoon-based coach Mary Carroll as well, knowing the path that it took for Erlam to reach the Olympic level.

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“I couldn’t be more proud and pleased with Margo,” said Carroll. “She’s had a little bit of a rough go, shoulder surgery and the whole bit. She’s come back really strong and it was a Cinderella story.”

Click to play video: 'National scouts search for potential young Olympians at Saskatoon event'
National scouts search for potential young Olympians at Saskatoon event

With the Paris Games looming, Team Canada has taken their training camp out west for the first time with practice sessions at the Shaw Centre in Saskatoon.

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It’s a rare chance to train at home for Erlam, Carroll and Pike Lake product Rylan Wiens.

“I know the Olympics is a dream come true but this is a pre-Olympic dream come true,” said Wiens. “We don’t often get to have those people from Montreal come out here and train in our facility other than at competition.”

“I was excited Sunday night, coming in Monday morning just like a kid going to his first day of school.”

Joining Wiens and Erlam in the Saskatoon pool were Wiens’ synchro teammate Nathan Zsombor-Murray, along with women’s national team members Caeli McKay and Kate Miller.

Pending official selection by the Canadian Olympic Committee, Wiens will be off to his second Olympics after representing Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

In the three years since the Tokyo Olympics were held, Wiens has become one of Canada’s top medal threats with the national record in the men’s platform and a pair of silver medals won at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“Rylan, compared to his first go-around at the Olympics, he was a boy and now he is a man,” said Carroll. “That’s the biggest difference I see. Technically and competitively he’s matured, he’s showed that he has medal potential.”

Wiens will be getting a much different Olympic experience this time around, as the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games were riddled by COVID-19 protocols and zero fans in attendance.

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Meanwhile, he will be aiming to improve on his 19th place showing in the 10-metre platform.

“Since the Olympics I’ve been travelling to every international competition doing well,” said Wiens. “Medalling here and there, really showing everyone that I deserve to be there and deserve to be fighting for a medal. I’m three years older, three years more experienced, three years more confident.”

It’s a historic year for Saskatchewan’s diving community with two of the five national team slots belonging to athletes from the province, emblematic of the talent coming out of Saskatoon and Regina according to Carroll.

“It says a lot if we’re saying 40 per cent of the team is from Saskatoon, that’s huge,” said Carroll. “Rylan was the only one not from Montreal last time, so it’s a statement.”

Before wrapping up their Saskatoon portion of the training camp, Team Canada members met with young divers from the Saskatoon Diving Club on Thursday night to answer questions and form connections with the next generation of national athletes.

“They can see that you don’t need to live in Montreal to be able to go to the Olympics,” said Erlam. “You can follow in the path that Rylan and I have done, we stayed in the west and we’ve made it this far. So I think it’s very inspiring for them.”

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Diving competition at the 2024 Paris Olympics will begin on July 27 with the Canadian Olympic Committee expected to formalize the team in the coming weeks.

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