NEWS
01/07/2016 12:28 EST | Updated 01/07/2017 00:12 EST

Filion's broken ankle throws wrench into diver's Olympic preparations

Roseline Filion was running through her normal warmup routine of backflips on a mat when she botched a landing, coming down hard and heel-first on the concrete.

The Dec. 17 accident left one of Canada's top divers with a broken right ankle, and her hopes for a berth in the individual 10-metre event at the Rio Olympics in jeopardy.

The 28-year-old from Laval, Que., a bronze medallist at the 2012 Olympics in synchro diving with partner Meaghan Benfeito, suffered the injury at the Canadian championships in Saskatoon. She was competing there for a spot in next month's World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, an Olympic qualifying event.

"For a 20-year career, it's my first big injury," Filion said in a phone interview. "And when it happened, I was really devastated, I was seeing too far, thinking that my season was dead, and I had no more chance. . . you know how when something bad happens you see black everywhere."

Filion and Benfeito clinched an Olympic spot in the 10-metre synchro event by winning silver at the world championships. But Filion struggled in the individual event there, finishing 13th, and failing to secure a Rio berth. 

Filion fractured her talus bone, a tricky injury that sometimes requires prolonged recovery. There's no set timeline for her return, but she had her cast substituted for a protective boot on Tuesday, and says another scan showed she's progressing well. She's been doing dry-land training since the accident — "just not any weight on my foot for now." 

She's getting a water boot this week that will enable her to work out in the pool with no weight-bearing.

"I designed it with zebra print on it. . . I had to make it fun, right?" she said.

Celina Toth of Victoria will compete in the 10-metre event at the Rio World Cup, and a top-25 finish would clinch an Olympic berth for Canada. Filion said she could win that spot by beating Toth at the Olympic trials in June in Toronto.

For now, Filion has a host of people helping her through her recovery. Her mom Helene moved in to help with cooking and cleaning. She has several volunteer chauffeurs.

"It's so bad, I can't drive and I feel like I'm a 14-year-old again, I'm asking my dad and mom to drive me everywhere," Filion said, laughing. "My coach Arturo (Miranda) is picking me up at home every day to bring me to the pool."

Mitch Geller, Diving Canada's chief technical officer, said the team is accustomed to pre-Olympic injuries. Two-time Olympic medallist Alexandre Despatie had surgery for a deep laceration to his head after hitting the diving board just six weeks out from the 2012 Games. The world champion broke his foot four months before winning silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"We keep this little whiteboard list of curve balls that get thrown our way, and we always find it interesting to track that," Geller said. "(Filion's injury) is going on the whiteboard. But there's going to be more to follow, and we're not unique. . .every team, every country, there's all kinds of unanticipated concerns that are thrown at them in the leadup to the Olympics."

Geller said there could be a silver lining for Filion, an athlete known for her consistency, and a mental toughness that allows her to pounce on her opponents' weaknesses.

Her area of weakness, Geller said, is her entry into the water, "where she could get in the water with as little splash as the very best of them. Right now, it's not quite there.

"She could practise that aspect of the dive without putting pressure on her foot, it's not a takeoff, you don't have to jump, you're basically falling off the platform, you can do that over and over and over until your eyes bleed," Geller said. "It's a mundane thing but if that aspect of her dives improve then she has even better medal prospects.

"You don't know what this (injury layoff) is going to look like in hindsight."

Filion will still accompany her teammates to Rio for the World Cup Feb. 19-24 to see the pool before the Games.

The communications student at the University of Montreal is also working with Diving Canada, doing social media and conducting media training sessions with the team's young divers.

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Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press