Athlete Rep Spotlight: Celina Toth – Diving

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Celina Toth

Name: Celina Toth
Sport: Diving
Position / Event: 10m Platform
National team tenure: 2008-2023
Hometown: St Thomas, Ont.

How did you first hear about and get involved in athlete advocacy?

I was a gymnast for about six years on the provincial team. I wasn’t very good and I was in a situation where I was doing skills that I wasn’t ready to be doing, skills that I was told to do. And I said I told my parents I wanted to quit. And they were like, Well, you have to see out there and see how it goes. So I saw out the year was still what didn’t want to be there. So my parents were like, okay, you need to go and tell them you are quitting yourself. So 12 years old, they set up for myself. I told my coaches I was done. And then another coach was like, why don’t you try diving? So I quit on a Monday. I called the Diving Club in London, Ontario on Wednesday, and then I tried out on Friday and was on the team on Monday.

Celina Toth competes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

Canada and the sport system need to prioritize the athletes experience because times are changing. The athletes have a voice. They should be in charge of their own everyday experiences, their competitions, and their training. We’re coming into a day and age where we all have our voice. We all make our own choices. Back in the day, training was a certain way. You were told what you were supposed to do by your coach and you did it. And now athletes are more experience-based. They’re older, they’re learning more, and they can have a part in their everyday environment and say what they want to do. It can be a more collaborative experience. In my experience, that’s what I learned and took away from how coaching, learning from different people, being on the national team, going to Montreal, and learning from other coaches. I was taking things in and I knew some about my body too, and what I was doing right. So for me, that was the most valuable thing, being able to collaborate with others and my coaches and learn and respect them and they learn from me and respect me. I think that that is such a huge benefit and positive thing that will just help people get better. And I think that that is something that we really need to honour and hone in on in the future.

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey?

Using my voice in my sport journey has allowed me to become into who I am. I was someone who was very uncomfortable with confrontation and being a part of AthletesCAN allowed me to come into my own and speak up for myself. I always found that I was in the wrong sport because I was an individual rather than a team sport. And I’m such a big team player. I like to support my teammates. I’m always the loudest one on the pool deck and so I learning how to use my voice, not just in the pool cheering for people but outside and sticking up for myself and others has been such a benefit. I want to be here for all of the athletes and not just speak up for myself. I want to make sure that the athletes in the future have a better experience than I did or than those before me. So I think that that has been the best and most rewarding thing I can bring forward and continue to support.

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy? 

My favourite memory of being an athlete rep is any AthletesCAN Forum. Any time where the athletes can get together, meet, share experiences or support one another has just been absolutely incredible and so rewarding. I’ve made so many incredible friends who have helped me get to the point where I am today in my career that I never would have met without athletes can forum and, you know, getting to support the others at Pan Ams when I was there and even now at Parapan Ams, it’s been just so fun and gives me so much pride in our country and the people that we have here supporting other athletes and themselves.

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

I’ve learned that it is hard to be a leader. It’s hard to be a leader in sport. It’s hard to be a leader in your life. It takes practice. It takes work. But as long as you believe that you’re doing the right thing and asking for help and following the path that you believe is right, you will come to the right, you know, right place in your journey and you will help others and others will support you. we’re doing this for the betterment of sport and the betterment of athlete experience. And we want people to be happy and we don’t want people to leave the sport upset or miserable, or like they didn’t feel like they had support from their teammates. And so we want everybody to work together. We’re a team, regardless of whether you’re a team sport or an individual sport, we are all working together for the same goal for the athletes best experience and performances, and that’s ultimately what we’re working for. So, yes, it’s hard, but as long as we all work together, we’ll get there.

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

My peers should join AthletesCAN and be a member because it’s such an incredible community. You have just so many people working towards the same thing. You can learn so much about your sport, about yourself, about sport in Canada, and how you can support others. We’re all here wanting the same thing, you know, for our teams to do the best they can for ourselves, to do the best we can. So this community has been such an incredible group of people that are pushing and supporting you and they teach you to use your own voice and support yourself and stand up for yourself. That’s been my biggest learning from being a part of AthletesCAN. I’ve been a part of AthletesCAN since 2016. I became part of the board. I applied to be on the board multiple times. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. But I didn’t give up like I don’t in sport. And it was so incredible to be a part of that board and speak up for other athletes in this country and be able to, speak for them in a difficult time after COVID, sort of during COVID and after COVID. I learned so much and we have so much more work to do. And I’m just so honored to be a part of this organization. I really can’t say enough. It’s so incredible. These people are friends for life and they will have your back for life. And who doesn’t want that?