TOKYO — Thirty minutes after her failed final dive, Pamela Ware was still in shock.
Coming off a solid performance in the preliminary round the day before, Ware's mistake in the fifth round of the three-metre springboard semifinal cost her a spot in the final, which looked all but guaranteed after four rounds.
The Greenfield Park, Que., athlete completely missed her approach while attempting a high-difficulty dive, forcing her to simply drop feet first into the water.
She finished in last place, ending her chances of a second consecutive Olympic final appearance in the three-metre springboard. She was seventh in Rio in 2016.
"I was too far in front of the diving board, my toes went past the board and if I had tried the dive, the board would have thrown me too far forward and I could have hurt myself," she said, still stunned. "I made the choice to jump in the water.
"It's a mistake I also make in training sometimes. I was talking to my coach to tell him that I shouldn't do it in competition and I did."
After the failed dive, Ware got out of the pool and took refuge in the hot tub. She sat there with a blank stare.
“Honestly, I don't know,” she said when asked what was going through her head in that moment. "I was in shock. I still haven't figured out what happened."
Ware repeatedly said "I'm OK" but clearly it will take some time to get over the mistake.
“I think I'm good because usually I react quickly with my emotions," she said. "Today, it's like I don't have any. We'll see in a few hours."
Meanwhile Jennifer Abel could only sympathize with her teammate. The Laval, Que., diver was up for her fifth dive right after Ware.
"I had a few thoughts for her, obviously," said Abel, who was momentarily pulled out of her bubble when she saw Ware jump into the water. "At the same time, I was like, 'the only thing you can do is focus and perform your last dive as best you can.'"
The 29-year-old made it happen and finished the semifinal on a high note, securing the second-best score of the fifth round to advance to the final.
Reigning Olympic champion Shi Tingmao of China also saved the best for last, scoring 81 points on her last dive to finish well in the lead with 371.45 points. Her teammate Wang Han, making her Olympic debut at age 30, led the leaderboard into the third round of diving before finishing in second place, almost 25 points behind Tingmao.
Abel, a silver medallist in last week's three-metre synchronized springboard alongside teammate Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu, will now seek the individual Olympic medal that eluded her in 2016. She finished fourth in the three-metre springboard in Rio.
The fact that the Chinese divers will once again be the medal favourites is not a concern for Abel.
“I really don't focus on them," she said. "I'm focusing on what I can control, which is my five dives, and that's what I did today. One dive at a time. It's not that easy. I start to feel more and more tired. But I intend to give it my best."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.
Marc Delbès, The Canadian Press