Tragedy struck the lives of Canadian diver Meaghan Benfeito and her partner, football player Alexandre Dupuis, as the condo they shared together in Mirabel, Que., burned to the ground after a fire broke out in their building on Thursday night.
The 31-year-old Montreal native was home alone when the blaze started, but she was able to quickly escape to safety. Unfortunately, her belongings and prized possessions were unable to be saved, including her three Olympic medals and two Pan Am Games medals.
"She just had time to leave with a coat on and her scarf," said Marie-Annick L'Allier, who serves as Benfeito's public representative.
Even her car, parked in the underground garage, was lost in the fire. L'Allier said the fire started when a barbecue propane tank exploded on the balcony of a nearby unit. Benfeito was among those who called 911.
Although she is understandably heartbroken and in shock, Benfeito's experience as a high-level athlete has helped provide much needed solace during this difficult time.
She has been able to rely on the mental strength she developed through her years of intense training and competition in order to make it through the tragedy.
"She's an Olympic athlete, and you know how they react. They're good in adversity," L'Allier said.
"She was pretty strong today, a pretty strong woman."
Above all else, L'Allier said Benfeito is just happy that she and Dupuis are safe.
There was some good news regarding her invaluable medals, as both Diving Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee are in the process of finding a solution so Benfeito can receive replacement medals.
"Diving Canada and the Canadian Olympic committee were pretty fast on trying to get replicas of those medals," L'Allier said. "[Benfeito] doesn't know if it's coming from the organizing committee who has leftover medals that could be given to Meaghan, or if it's the IOC, who has the molds the medals are based on.
"The COC was pretty fast and pretty good in getting the process going to see if it was possible for Meaghan to get those back."
Former diving teammate Mélanie Rinaldi also set up a GoFundMe page for Benfeito and Dupuis with the aim of getting the couple back on their feet. As of Friday night, a total of $13,282 had been raised in an effort to reach the target goal of $100K.
Dupuis, a fullback for the CFL's Edmonton Football Team, took to Instagram on Friday night to express gratitude on behalf of he and Benfeito.
"I wish I could find the words to tell you how grateful I am for all the love and support you guys sent me and @megbenfeito!"
L'Allier said that Benfeito is currently in good hands and being taken care of by family.
L'Allier says Benfeito, like other Canadian Olympic hopefuls, has also been dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the Tokyo Games.
"It's very difficult and very tiring for the athletes to focus on something that might not happen, so it's been a roller coaster for months for them."
Benfeito has stated that her goal is to win gold in the 10m synchro and 10m individual events at the 2020 Games. She and her diving partner, Caeli McKay, secured two spots for Canada in Tokyo in the women's 10m platform event after the pair qualified for the final at the world aquatics championships in 2019.
Benfeito claimed bronze in the 10m synchronized dive at the Summer Games in 2012 and 2016 alongside Roseline Filion. She also won bronze in the 10m individual event at the 2016 Olympics.
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