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Meaghan Benfeito tries to overcome a rough year

Meaghan Benfeito is used to having her family coming to see her compete in the Olympics, but this year the pandemic has made that impossible. In an interview to our newspaper, her father, Arthur Benfeito, told us that he just wants her to have fun in Tokyo. Benfeito has Portuguese blood and both their parents, Arthur Benfeito and Margarida Correia, have their roots originally in S. Miguel, Azores.

Meaghan Benfeito tries to overcome-tokio-mileniostadium
Créditos: Team Canada/Minas Panagiotakis

Benfeito, 32 years, is a three-time Olympic medallist diver and is trying to bring another medal from Tokyo 2020 to her collection. Meaghan had a rough year thanks to injuries, COVID-19 and a fire in her condo where she lost all her medals. She was living with her boyfriend Alexandre Dupuis, a former soccer player from Toronto Argonauts, in Montreal suburbs when a fire destroyed everything in January. Following the incident, the Canadian Olympic Committee began a process with the international Olympic community to make new medals but, despite that, the father told us that it’s not the same. “She has the medals but it’s not the medals she won…”

Benfeito used to team up with Roseline Filion but since she retired Meaghan teams up with young Caeli McKay in the 10m synchro event. Mckay is 22 years and was born in Calgary. Their last practice was in Toronto before they departed to Tokyo, and they will compete on July 27.

Kisses and giving hugs are uncommon in Japan. In most situations, a polite bow will work as an appropriate greeting. In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. The bow ranges from a small nod of the head to a deep bend at the waist. A bow of the head from a foreigner is usually enough and most Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to know the bowing rules. I think we can say that no other country in the world is so well prepared to host the Olympic games during a pandemic.

Milénio Stadium: What are Meaghan’s expectations regarding Tokyo 2020?

Meaghan Benfeito tries to overcome-tokio-mileniostadium
Meaghan Benfeito with the father, Arthur Benfeito Photo: Instagram

Arthur Benfeito: Meaghan had a rough year, she had a few injuries and all that but she is doing good. She hopes to win a medal, well they could win in synchro, and she could win individually.  She would love to do it but, you know, it’s a sport, it’s a one-day thing so you never know what’s going to happen. Meaghan’s partner got injured in training camp leading up to the Olympic trials. Her partner was supposed to do the trial competing individually, but she couldn’t. Now Caeli McKay is competing with Meaghan, they haven’t been practicing much, but we will cross our fingers, and we hope everything goes well.

MS: How was the physical preparation to Tokyo during COVID-19 pandemic?

AB: When the pandemic started last year, everything was closed so they were practicing at home. She used to put matts in the living room, and they used to dive, and they got machinery, which were lent to them and some they bought. They practiced a lot from the house, but there was no pool. But then, at a certain time, the government allowed the Olympic athletes to practice, but they had to stay in a bubble, they couldn’t go out and they couldn’t meet a lot of people. They were at the Olympic Stadium, and they were diving and practicing until now. As a matter of fact, they left to Tokyo from Toronto, their last practice was at the Markham Pan Am Centre.

MS: For the first time in history Olympic Games, we won’t have public. Are you afraid this could affect Meaghan’s performance?

AB: We went to the last three events, and we were planning to be in Tokyo, but they don’t allow public. She enjoys having her family at events, but none of the athletes can have their family or friends. About affecting her, I hope it doesn’t, but she is sponsored by Kraft, and they have a campaign “Your Cheers. Their Ears”, so hopefully they will have a lot of that. We know is always nice to have the fans there, but it’s going to be the same rules for all the athletes.

MS: I read that Meaghan lost most of her medals in a fire in January in her condo in Montreal. Can we say that now, more than ever, Meaghan needs more medals?

AB: Yes, because they replaced the medals, but it’s like she said, she has the medals but it’s not the medals she won… She would like to win a medal and has an Olympic medal that was put around her neck. She has a boyfriend and due to the COVID-19 and the restrictions she slowly moved in with her boyfriend, because otherwise she wouldn’t be able to see him. She would practice but she couldn’t go around of the house. Staying at his house that would be her bubble. Because she wouldn’t come here to our house, we would talk only by Skype and her bubble was only her and her boyfriend. Unfortunately, that was one day, January 28, she was home, and a fire broke out and they lost everything. The only thing that she has was the clothes on her body.

MS: Unfortunately, three athletes, two from South Africa and one from Czech Republic, already tested positive in Tokyo.  As a father, do you share this concern?

AB: I have this concern because we never know. Meaghan already got the two shots, and we try to do the best to prevent from happening, they have so many protocols, tests, masks, social distance, washing the hands, but you never know and if you test positive it’s all over. She gets tested everyday and I think they use more rapid tests.

MS: The athletes must arrive in the Olympic City five days before the competition, and they have to follow a very restrict list of protocols to avoid getting sick. How is Meaghan spending the last days before the competition on June 27?

AB: She is already at the village, and they have a big cafeteria there, where they can have meals. They are allowed to walk around the village but in the cafeteria it’s all divided by plexiglass. They can sit in the same table but each of them will be in a cubicle. All of them need to stay in their bubble.

MS: Can you disclose what you said to Meaghan before she departed to Tokyo?

AB: We told her to be careful and hopeful, if it’s her last Olympics, to enjoy, have fun and do her best, regardless of what happens.

Joana Leal/MS

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