Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Canadian diver Celina Toth: Tokyo 2021 is not an easy decision for every athlete

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Becky Thompson
Celina Toth. Photo provided by Celina Toth.
Celina Toth. Photo: Thomas Cumberbatch/Godspeed Communications.

When the International Olympic Committee announced it was postponing the Tokyo Games until 2021, a lot of athletes breathed a sigh of relief. 

With little doubt the right decision had been made in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed the obvious choice for Olympians would be to now plan their training for 2021.

However, that decision is not as clear cut for some. 

One athlete still unsure of what her next move will be, is 28-year-old Canadian diver Celina Toth. 

Toth has been competing since she was 12-years-old, and has been on the national team since 2008, a long career which included competing on the world stage on several occasions.

After Tokyo, she was ready to move on.

While Toth says her body could handle another year of training, she fears her mental health may not be able to. 

It’s been a really emotional couple of years and my mental health is decreasing,” said Toth. 

“I need to think, do I want to put myself through one another year that is probably going to be harder than this past year?”

Toth has been diving for Canada since 2008. Photo provided by Celina Toth.
Toth has been diving for Canada since 2008. Photo provided by Celina Toth. 

For Toth, another year would involve training twice a day; fitting in dry-land, pool and weight sessions; trying to hit the diving standards in order to receive funding from Sport Canada; while also balancing a part-time job with Lululemon in order to pay rent.

And while her team and people around her think it’s an easy decision, she is not so sure. 

“To them it’s just a no brainer. It’s the Olympics and this is what we trained for, of course everyone has to do it.

“But for me, I feel like the longer I do this, the more I do this, it’s more just mentally taxing.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without my parents’ help and that’s another thing, we had this plan set out for 2020—no more financial help from my family.

“I’m going to get a job or go to school and start my master’s degree and just move on. And now I have to put them through another year of support […] so it’s like another financial burden, which is also just another stress on top of my every day.”

Many of these issues are complex and are all too prevalent in Olympic sports.

Toth's mental health is a deciding factor on Tokyo 2021. Photo provided by Celina Toth.
Toth’s mental health is a deciding factor on Tokyo 2021. Photo provided by Celina Toth. 

The dedication that athletes put in to qualify and compete in an Olympic Games is a full-time job, notwithstanding the other elements of life that they have to balance. 

Toth is now faced with deciding to move on to the next stage of her life or to put that on hold to continue to train for 2021.

The last three months, even before the coronavirus pandemic, were the hardest in any of Toth’s diving seasons as she battled injury and tried to maintain her mental health. 

And after each season ends, Toth said she experiences a moment in time where she doesn’t want to go back to the pool again and after Tokyo, she was ready to not have that feeling anymore. 

“I still love competing, that I don’t want to give up. But there are just so many other things that I don’t love anymore, that I don’t know if I want to do that again and put myself through it.”

While Toth has not made any decisions on her career yet, she is considering other opportunities that she would like to pursue if she does not compete in 2021. 

There are many mixed feelings for the 28-year-old as she goes back and forth on what her next move will be. 

But as hard as everything has been on her, the Canadian emphasized  it has all been worth it. 

“I wouldn’t be where, I am or have the opportunities that I have in the future, and that I have had, if I didn’t have this team around me in the sport.

“So I’m excited about my future because of what diving and focusing on the Olympics has been.

“Either way, I’ll make the right decision, but I still don’t know what that decision will be yet.”