Pamela Ware knew she was back, so did her coaches, and now the world knows it.
In her first major international competition since missing a crucial dive at the Tokyo Olympics, Canada’s Ware reached the podium three times at the World Aquatics Diving World Cup, including a silver-medal performance in the women’s three-metre springboard on Sunday.
Ware, who also earned bronze with Mia Vallee of Beaconsfield, Que., in Friday’s three-metre synchro and silver in Sunday’s team event, said the individual dive was the true test to prove she was back.
“I know there were a lot of people who doubted me because of what happened in Tokyo, but I worked so hard (to get back),” said Ware.
“I think I showed this weekend that I have returned, and I’m here to stay.”
The 30-year-old Ware from Greenfield, Que., produced steady results on each of her first four dives before landing her highest score in the final round to reach a 365.40 cumulative score — one of her best performances ever.
Chen Yiwen of China (404.70) won gold and American Sarah Bacon (357.85) took bronze in the competition.
As she exited the water, Ware couldn’t hold back the tears of joy while embracing her coaches and Vallee, who shed a tear of her own for her teammate.
“Often my last dive isn’t as good because I want to do so well that I hold back. … But I just said, ‘you know what, go for it, you can do it,’” Ware said. “When I heard the crowd when I came out of the pool, it was just so loud and I got chills and I just started crying.”
Ware made a mistake in the approach to the final dive in the Tokyo semifinal in 2021, forcing her to drop off the diving board into the water and score a zero.
Twelve long months of reflection followed. By the time she returned to diving, she made a whole set of changes: new training, new coaching, and the dive she unsuccessfully performed in Tokyo was no longer part of her lineup.
Aaron Dziver, a Canadian team coach who worked with Ware through the Tokyo Games and is now the technical director at the Canadian Diving Institute in Montreal, gives her credit for coming back at her own pace and using her mistake as motivation.
“With experience, and even with the shortcomings we face as an athlete, you can look it as a defeat or look at what happened and become stronger,” he said. “The performance here today, as well as yesterday’s, gives Pamela even more motivation to be here again, again and again.
“She’s shown to everyone and all her competitors that she’s here. She’s here for the world championships coming up in Fukuoka (Japan), and the Olympics in Paris.”
Nathan Zsombor-Murray, of Pointe Claire, Que., added a third medal to Canada’s collection later Sunday with a bronze in the men’s 10-metre platform — his first senior individual medal in a major competition.
Zsombor-Murray, who scored a cumulative of 507.80, said he fed off the crowd’s energy at the Olympic Pool, which sold more than 1,900 tickets for Sunday.
“I could hear the crowd while I was underwater,” Zsombor-Murray said of his second dive, which received four out of six perfect scores from the judges. “While I was swimming up to get air, I knew I had a good score. It was a unique sensation.”
China’s Yang Hao (580.25) scored two perfect dives to capture gold and Rikuto Tamai of Japan (513.45) took silver.
Canada finished second in the team event final to cap the weekend with a fourth podium. China won gold and Australia claimed bronze.
Earlier, China’s Quan Hongchan won gold in the women’s 10-metre platform individual final. Chen Yuxi of China took silver and Britain’s Andrea Spendolini Sirieix picked up bronze.
Calgary’s Caeli McKay finished fifth and Victoria’s Celina Toth was seventh. McKay, who’s still recovering from having her ankle reconstructed in October, said before the competition that she was aiming to be in the top five.
“I would have loved to have a medal,” she said. “But I’m happy, like I can’t be mad at myself.”
China’s Wang Zongyuan took top spot in the men’s three-metre springboard final. Australia’s Li Shixin took silver and Germany’s Moritz Wesemann picked up bronze.
Victoria’s Bryden Hattie was ninth.
The competition is Montreal’s first senior diving event since 2020 and the second of three World Cup meetings this year.
The first was held in Xi’an, China in April. The top 18 athletes in individual events and top eight teams in synchronized and team events will qualify for the World Cup Super Final this August in Berlin.
The world championships, set for July 14-22, will take place in Fukuoka, Japan.