Canada's Meaghan Benfeito came up just short in the semifinal of the women's 10-metre platform diving event at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, finishing one spot away from qualifying in a heartbreaking finish.
18 divers competed in the semifinal, with the top 12 qualifying for the final. Benfeito posted a total of 296.40 points on five dives, finishing 13th with a best score of 72.
The three-time Olympic medallist quickly found herself in a significant hole after placing last on her first dive, scoring 38.40.
While she managed to move her way back into a qualification position in the fourth round, her fifth dive was her second-lowest score of the day — ending her prospects of reaching the podium in Tokyo.
"I'm obviously disappointed and sad, but at the same time I think it's important for me to be proud of myself," Benfeito said.
It has been a challenging year for Benfeito. She lost everything she owned when a fire destroyed her condo in January, including her three Olympic bronze medals. And earlier at these Olympics, Benfeito and her diving partner, Caeli McKay, missed the podium in the 10m synchronized event by just 0.54 points.
"It's been a rough couple of months, even a rough couple of years with the whole pandemic, and everything that's happened literally in the last couple of months. I can be proud of myself for pushing through all of that and standing up on that tower and giving my best," Benfeito said.
The 32-year-old was pursuing her second straight Olympic medal in the event after winning bronze in Rio. She also captured silver in the event at the last Commonwealth Games in 2018.
After the Laval, Que., native's shaky start, she stepped it up with a much stronger dive in the second round, getting back into the mix with a score of 70.50 to take 15th place.
Benfeito continued to catch up on her third dive, completing a back three and a half somersault for a score of 62.70 to move up to 14th position.
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Benfeito's fourth and best dive saw her momentarily move into qualification, as she pulled off an armstand back double somersault with one and a half twists — earning her 72 points to claim 12th place. That dive was also her strongest of the preliminary round.
But the comeback was short lived.
Benfeito's final dive, an inward three and a half somersaults, only earned her 52.80 points. The dive had her 11th, but she dropped down to 12th, and then finally 13th as the remaining competitors completed their final dives.
"That last dive I think will haunt me for a couple of months. It was the best take-off that I had done in weeks, and when you don't practice it like that you kind of lose it at the end," Benfeito said.
"I was spinning way faster than I've been spinning in the last couple of weeks, so obviously that's what created the fact that I went over [on the entry]. But again, I'm proud of myself for pushing through all of it."
The 13th and 14th place divers qualify as reserves for the final.
14-year-old Quan Hongchan of China finished first in the semifinal with a total of 415.65 points. She is competing in her first world event as the youngest Chinese Olympian in Tokyo.
Hongchan dominated her first dive to lead with 85.50 points, and she somehow looked even better on her second dive with a nearly perfect score of 94.40.
Reigning world champion Chen Yuxi of China finished second with 407.75 points.
Tanya Watson, the first female diver to ever represent Ireland at the Olympics, finished outside of qualification in 15th with 278.15 points.
This was Benfeito's fourth Olympic appearance after making her debut at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. A versatile diver, Benfeito has also won a combined six medals in the 10m synchronized platform event at the Olympics and world championships.
"Sports can be cruel, but it can be amazing at the same time," Benfeito said.
"I've had a great career that I can be proud of and this is not going to define all my career that I have achieved, and all the good performances that I've achieved. But obviously it is upsetting."
WATCH | Benfeito's journey to Tokyo: