LONDON – They do everything in their life together, from shopping to eating to leaping blindly off five-story platforms, so it was fitting that Canadians Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benfeito would be left waiting for endless, anxious seconds wondering if they would win an Olympic medal.
Time ticked slowly. The crowd inside the whale-shaped Aquatics Centre waited, silent. A hush loomed over the pool.
Filion and Benfeito were sure they had won a bronze medal in the 10-meter synchronized diving event. The scores added up from their previous four dives. "All you got to do is land on your head," Benfeito told Filion moments before they took their final plunge together. And yet it was taking forever for the scores to post on the board across from the big pool.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Wait. Wait. Wait.
Finally the numbers appeared: 337.62. Third place. A bronze medal. And the two women who have walked almost in step for the past seven years fell into a long embrace.
[ Photos: Priceless photos of divers' focused faces ]
They know each other too well. There have been too many dinners, too many training sessions, too many nights spent sitting up talking, wondering about this moment. Filion knew Benfeito would know the scores going into the final jump. Benfeito knew Filion would be nervous so she did not discuss the dive.
Then when the results were announced and Canada's second medal of the games was clinched, they stood side by side on the medal stand, almost mirror images of each other, and watched the flag rise in the distance.
"It means so much," Benfeito said. "This is an entire career dedicated to trying to achieve a dream."
This started back in 2005 at the suggestion of a coach who put the two together thinking they might work well as a team. They became almost the same person – both with dark hair, effusive personalities, and a tendency to finish each other's sentences. Each became the other's best friend, training partner, and confidant. When they show up at the pool for morning training they are often surprised to see they are even dressed the same. Someone asked on Tuesday if they could order for each other at a restaurant and Benfeito smiled and said, yes, they could do that, too.
When Benfeito's uncle died in October it was Filion who raced to help her. And when Filion's grandfather passed away in January, Benfeito did the same for her friend.
"We've been through this together," Filion said after the award ceremony. "Our bond became bigger. But they're up there watching this."
She paused and glanced toward the ceiling.
"We talked about this," she continued. "We said, 'Really? This year?' We have to go through this. It was a little frustrating at first, but then we realized that everything happens for a reason and I'm sure they can see us."
On Monday, the day before they would win a medal, Filion tweeted that she and Benfeito were standing – together, how else? – in a cafeteria when a worker asked if they were sisters. "I said no but tomorrow we will be … in synch ;)" she said in the tweet.
Tuesday they were. From the start they seemed confident, finishing the first round in second, dropping to fourth in the second and then holding steady to third in their final three runs. It seemed almost too easy, as if they expected a medal all along.
[ Photos: Inspirational Olympic celebrations ]
Perhaps Beijing prepared them for this. Still a new team, they went to China in 2008 and finished seventh. Later they said the effort gave them valuable experience. It made them believe they could medal in London. They came back to Canada and spent more time than ever together. Slowly they got better. And as London loomed, a medal seemed a bigger and bigger possibility.
They stood on the diving platform, this time sure of themselves. They danced to the music that blared over the speakers and they looked at one another and laughed.
As Benfeito predicted, Filion was nervous. She felt the same nausea that comes from pre-diving anxiety. When it was time for the last leap, Benfeito offered a high-five. They laughed. As fate would have it, they were the last team diving so they knew exactly what they were facing. They turned their backs to the pool, wrapped their toes around the edge, and plunged together.
After they surfaced, they looked at each other and Benfeito said: "It's OK, we're done."
The two women who are so much alike they even have matching Olympic tattoos could share one more thing.
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