By Dan Plouffe
They’re rivals for the top of the podium every time they meet, and they are members of different clubs that share the same facility at Nepean Sportsplex but largely keep to themselves.
But Kathryn Grant and Kate Miller have found they share more than just exceptional talent on the diving boards, not to mention similar names – Kathryn from ONDC and Kate from NODC – but they also share a strong bond and close friendship despite all the ingredients for the opposite type of relationship being present.
“Kate and I are really good friends. We get along so well. We don’t really see each other as rivals at all,” notes the Ottawa National Diving Club’s Grant, a Grade 9 student at John McCrae Secondary School. “We’re just friends that compete with each other so many times each year (over 20, she estimates). It’s fun. We talk during the event. We talk after. We hang out.”
Both Grant and Miller got early starts in diving, entering the competitive ranks at age 8 when most wait until 10. They’ve competed in the same events countless times, though they pay no attention to one another’s dives or scores when they’re competing head-to-head.
“I try not to watch any of her dives because she’s usually my biggest competition. I need to focus on myself and what I need to do,” signals the Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club’s Miller, a Grade 8 student at St. Mark Catholic High School. “But no matter who wins, we’re still best friends, and we’ll be talking and laughing and congratulating each other on how good we did.”
Both have represented Canada internationally, and each owns a pile of provincial and national hardware. Grant says “it’s really good for the city and our sport” to have them both excelling on big stages, and to push each other to new heights.
“For me, I think friendly competition is the best thing in the world,” indicates ONDC coach Brennan Villemaire. “They’ve been friends for as long as they’ve been in the sport. To them, it’s probably going to feel like it’s their whole life.”
The pair’s latest “duel” came at Dive Ontario’s Summer Provincials, held May 17-19 at the Nepean Sportsplex.
Grant topped Miller in the opening event of the competition – Women’s Group B (age 14-15) 1-metre – and then they flip-flopped the 1-2 spots for Women’s B 3 m and platform.
Miller also won Women’s Open Platform and was the silver medallist in Women’s Open 1 m and 3 m (followed by Grant in the Women’s Open 3 m bronze medal position).
There are two other out-of-town divers who often also challenge for the top, and they are good friends of Miller and Grant’s as well.
“Honestly, any one of them could be a national champion in July,” states Villemaire. “The four of them are some of the best friends you can ask for. It’s not superficial. They support each other. They’re genuinely happy for the other one if they win. If they’re learning something new, they’ll help each other out with anything that they’re going through.
“I’m happy to see friendships are made even with them being that good of competitors.”
Other local medallists from the Summer Provincials included Nepean-Ottawa’s Henry McKay (gold – Men’s Open 3 m), Victor Hearn (silver – Men’s B platform & Men’s Open 1 m, and bronze – Men’s B 1 m), ONDC’s Talia Wootton (silver – Women’s A platform, and bronze – Women’s Open Platform, Women’s A 1 m & 3 m) and Catherine Boyer, who took bronze just ahead of teammate Audree Howes in Women’s C 1 m.
Other highlights for Villemaire were junior-aged athlete Wootton coming within 15 points of a senior national championships qualifying score in women’s open platform, Emmanuelle Roberge-Le achieving the score required to qualify for her first national championships appearance, Mayor Jim Watson making the 50/50 lottery draw for prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000, and the “phenomenal” contributions from “our army of volunteers and parents” to help run the 3-day, all-day event.
“We had so many compliments on every aspect,” Villemaire highlights. “We always try to host whenever we can because we’ve got such a great team to help out.”