Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Photo Credit: Diving Canada/Francois Mittens
They say good things come to those who wait.
After having the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed due to COVID-19 until this summer, Saskatchewan-based diver Rylan Wiens hopes that saying applies to him.
The 19-year-old Wiens made national headlines earlier this month after his 488.55 point outing earned him a bronze medal in 10-metre podium diving at a World Cup event in Tokyo, an accomplishment he proclaims as “the best moment of his career.”
But in the coming months, Wiens has even bigger aspirations — to become the second-ever Saskatchewan diver to qualify for an Olympic Games. Regina’s Reuben Ross competed at the 2008 and 2012 Games.
Thanks to his performance at the World Cup event in Tokyo, his chance to qualify for the Olympics is even greater. Wiens’ bronze medal, paired with teammate Nathan Zsombor-Murray’s fifth-place finish ensures two Canadians will have the opportunity to don the maple leaf in July in Tokyo.
But in the meantime, Wiens is back in Canada and in the midst of a two-week quarantine in his home in Pike Lake, Sask. Quarantine has consisted of plenty of well-wishes, text messages and media requests after his bronze medal performance made waves across the Saskatchewan sports scene.
“It’s been crazy,” said Wiens.
Upon completion of his quarantine, Wiens will get back in the pool to prepare for the Olympic Trials in Toronto on June 28. To secure an Olympic spot, he will need a top-two finish.
“I’m pretty confident in my chances as long as I can reproduce what I did at the World Cup,” said Wiens. “As long as I can do my dives like I know how to do them, I think I have a pretty good shot at making the team.”
Wiens’ rise to national prominence shouldn’t come as a surprise. He won the senior national title in 2019 at just 17-years-old, after third and fourth place finishes the two previous years. That performance helped him to win the Saskatchewan Sport Awards 2019 Youth Male Athlete of the Year.
He trains out of the Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre and the Shaw Centre with the Saskatoon Diving Club, where he is coached by Mary Carroll, who finished eighth at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
“She’s just telling me to believe in my abilities,” he said of training under the former Olympian and recent Diving Canada national coaching award winner. “She’s always told me that I’m good enough to do it and I just need to believe that I can. Now with this third-place finish in the World Cup, I have a lot more confidence in my abilities and a lot more confidence in what I can do. I’ve been slowly able to realize that this is a real possibility and it might really happen. So they’re just giving me encouragement and saying just do your stuff.”
It’s pretty cool to be able to represent this community and the city of Saskatoon. To be able to put Saskatoon on the map a little bit, it’s really awesome for me. I am really proud to represent my hometown.Rylan Wiens on being from Saskatchewan
Wiens first got into diving at the age of six when his parents came across a newsletter advertising summer camps. They settled on a diving camp, enrolling Rylan and his older brother. From there, he was hooked.
“We did the summer camp and we both loved it,” he recalled. “So, the coach asked us to come back and pretty much from there on it’s just history. Like every year I kept enjoying it more and more. 12 years down the road I’m still doing it.”
However, 2020 wasn’t like any other for Wiens. After growing accustomed to hitting the road or jet setting across the world for events, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Wiens out of the pool for nearly four months, resorting to training at home — whether that be physical or mental conditioning. After being given the green light to get back in the pool — that didn’t mean competing like he had been. Diving events across the world shifted toward a virtual competition format, which he described as “weird.”
“You can’t quite get into that heightened state of adrenaline,” he said. “It’s not quite the same, but it’s the best we could do with what we got.”
However, while virtual competitions weren’t necessarily his cup of tea, Wiens views the pandemic as sort of a blessing in disguise. The Olympic Games were postponed, allowing him another year under his belt to develop, improve his consistency and learn new dives.
“From when I was just young or even started diving, I had dreamed of going to the Olympics,” said Wiens. “I didn’t know what it was in, but now that the opportunity has presented itself, I’m super excited. If I actually made it, that would be a dream come true. It would really put a smile on my face.”
Wiens’ success would put a lot of smiles on faces of those within Saskatchewan. He has received funding from the Sask Lotteries-funded Future Best program, which supports Saskatchewan athletes chasing national team status, for the four years prior to being a carded national team athlete.
“The costs of diving are quite expensive,” he said. “It’s not a cheap sport to be in, especially because it’s all year round with rent full-time and just to have that support and know that my province is behind me supporting me through what I do, really just encourages me to do better and represent the province even more.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to represent this community and the city of Saskatoon. To be able to put Saskatoon on the map a little bit, it’s really awesome for me. I am really proud to represent my hometown.”
The Diving Canada Olympic Trials are set for June 28 to July 1 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.