Victoria Boardworks trio dive into Birmingham Games

BIRMINGHAM, England – Nearly three decades after the last javelin was thrown, the shuttle smashed and the pedal pressed, the ripples of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games can still be felt on the Canadian team here at the 2022 Games.

BIRMINGHAM, England – Nearly three decades after the last javelin was thrown, the shuttle smashed and the pedal pressed, the ripples of the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games can still be felt on the Canadian team here at the 2022 Games.

The 94 Forward organization, which manages the legacy fund of the Victoria Games, capitalized at more than $20 million, helps fund the triathletes, middle-distance runners and cyclists who represent Canada around the world. The swimmers who won 20 medals, including seven golds, at these Commonwealth Games in Birmingham all made it through the Canadian trials held at Saanich Commonwealth Place in April.

That old facility from the 1994 Games also still creates ripples in the diving pool with three members of the Victoria Boardworks Club competing for Canada at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Olympic Olympian Celina Toth in Tokyo will be joined here during the Games by Boardworks teammates Bryden Hattie and Renée Batalla. Toth will compete in the women’s 10 meter and 10 meter synchro events, Hattie the men’s one meter, three meter and three meter synchro and Batalla the women’s 10 meter.

“I feel like these are my great divers and have been very proud of them since I started the Boardworks Club as a legacy of the Victoria Games,” said Boardworks founder Mitch Geller, now Diving Canada Technical Director.

The Boardworks trio range in age from Games rookie Batalla, 15, to Olympian Toth, 30.

“It’s great to have three divers from our club in the Commonwealth Games, especially a new face like Renée [Batalla]’ said Toth.

“It’s weird to be the oldest and experienced leader now. Standing there on the shelves in front of these big Games crowds makes me feel like a rookie, just like Renée.

This is a big step up from the junior ranks for Batalla.

“It’s great to get experience with such high-level athletes,” said the Victoria teen, who went from shock qualifier in the Canadian trials at Saanich Place to a name to watch.

“These are the biggest crowds I’ve seen in my life. But I’ll just fine-tune it,” Batalla said, calm and composed beyond her age.

This could be the start of a very special journey for the young islander: “It would be great to make it to the 2024 Olympics in Paris at the age of 17. But if I miss them, I think I’ll make it to Los Angeles 2028.”

Said Geller of his emerging potential child prodigy, “Renée’s talent is unwavering and she’s only just breaking through.”

Hattie, 21, is competing in the Commonwealth Games after completing the NCAA Div. 1 bronze medal in the men’s 10 meter this spring with the University of Tennessee Volunteers and started eighth in the men’s 1 meter games on Thursday and is going for the podium in his other events from today through Monday.

“To have three Boardworks divers worldwide here in Birmingham is so cool and says a lot about our club,” said Claremont Secondary graduate.

“There’s a real family feel to Boardworks.”

Boardworks head coach Tommy McLeod is an assistant coach for Canada at the Games.

“It ruined our summer in a great way,” he said with a laugh.

“We believe in teaching the basic moves and fundamentals of diving at Boardworks and acting as building blocks.”

Where this trio is going is from Birmingham to Paris.

With much of Canada’s Golden Generation divers, who were reliable medal producers in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, now retired, a new group is being developed that has so far produced gold, silver and bronze in Birmingham, with dives up to and Monday.

“We don’t see it as a rebuild, but as a transition to the next wave,” Geller says.

In a highly anticipated Canadian event today, Calgary’s 10-meter bronze medalist Caeli McKay teams up with individual sixth-place Toth to go for gold in the 10-meter synchro event.

More than 50 island or island-based athletes will compete in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, including Victoria’s podium-favored hammer thrower Adam Keenan at Alexander Stadium today. The Games will last until the closing ceremony on Monday.

Australia leads the medal table with 140, followed by host nation England with 131 and third place Canada with 67.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment