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A year ago, Caeli McKay said her teammates on a young Canadian diving team called her “grandma” – an unusual nickname at then just 23 years old.

In reality, McKay’s younger peers view her as quite the opposite.

“We like to joke around with her and stuff, but we all agree that Caeli’s 18 at heart,” partner Kate Miller, 18, said while laughing next to McKay earlier this week at the Olympic Pool.

Both divers advanced to Sunday’s women’s 10-metre platform final Friday at the World Aquatics Diving World Cup. The Calgary-born McKay finished third (352.15) in the preliminary round, while Miller, of Ottawa, placed 10th (308.05) to reach her first World Cup final.

McKay and Miller have already booked their tickets to this summer’s Paris Olympics in the 10-metre synchro discipline. Canada has pre-qualified for one individual spot and could add another.

Now 24, McKay is considered a veteran despite her age – and apparent youthful energy – as a senior national team member since 13 years old.

“I try to bring positivity and a bit of experience and advice to whoever needs it,” McKay said. “I want to be the figure that I needed when I was younger. That’s what I kind of try to bring towards everyone.”

Despite that, Miller easily forgets about their six-year age gap.

“She just likes to have a lot of fun like I do and (we have) similar humour,” Miller said. “She is older, but she’s the same age as me at heart.”

McKay’s resume includes a fifth-place finish in the 10-metre synchro alongside Meaghan Benfeito in 2021 at the Tokyo Games, where she performed despite badly tearing ligaments in her ankle ahead of the event.

After a long recovery, McKay came back on the international scene and captured her first-ever medal at a world championships with a bronze last year.

Miller, a world junior gold medalist, moved to Montreal last fall to train full-time with McKay and is taking a gap year before heading to the University of South California.

The two divers competed as a 10-metre synchro pair for the first time in last May’s World Cup event in Montreal. This year, they return as an Olympics-bound duo after pre-qualifying with a sixth-place finish at the world championships last month.

“The more experience that we have as a team, the better we get,” McKay said. “You can see a lot of progression within the last year.”

Although they qualified, McKay described securing the quota spot as a “battle” because of an arduous schedule at the worlds.

“Caeli’s triceps were shot by that,” Diving Canada chief technical officer Mitch Geller said. “She couldn’t get into the water without splashing, her arms were just falling apart when she hit the water. It was really tough.”

That’s where Miller stepped up.

“She just nailed it. And this was a really tough qualification event because the teams are really closely matched,” Geller said. “Kate, in that moment, she went in and she did everything you can ask from her.”

Miller carried that momentum into Friday, and when she got out of the pool with a spot in the final secured, McKay, who was part of the previous preliminary group, was there to greet her.

“She told me `good job kiddo,”' Miller said. “I view her as the same age as me, but she’s an older sister, I’m just like a little baby sister to her honestly, so I’m following her footsteps.”

Fofana advances

Earlier Friday, Montreal’s Cedric Fofana advanced to his first major final on the international stage.

The 20-year-old Fofana placed 10th in the men’s three-metre springboard preliminary round with 387.75 points – just under six shy of his career high (393.65) – in front of friends and family.

“I’m really happy because I’ve been trying to qualify for a final for a long time, and I wasn’t always getting the results I expected,” said Fofana, who placed 34th at the worlds last month. “To qualify with the best of the world for a final, I’m really proud of that.”

Bryden Hattie of Victoria missed the cut by finishing 13th (375.90), but could still feature in Sunday’s final if a diver from the top 12 withdraws. Montreal’s Eloise Belanger was 16th in the women’s 10-metre.

Fofana, Belanger, Benjamin Tessier and Amelie-Laura Jasmin earned Canada a fifth-place result (378.20) in the mixed team final to end the day. China captured gold (506.35), Britain won silver (438.05) and Australia took bronze (405.70).

Finals for the men’s three-metre synchro, women’s 10-metre synchro, men’s 10-metre individual and women’s three-metre individual take place Saturday.

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