Q&A with Molly Carlson
Champion Diver Talks about Her Olympic Dreams, Thunder Bay Roots
By Bonnie Schiedel
Molly Carlson is having a memorable year. As one of Team Canada’s elite high divers, the Thunder Bay-raised athlete travels the world to dive from both 20metre pool platforms and incredibly scenic cliffs and bridges. So far in 2023 she has racked up first- and secondplace showings in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in international locations, earned Canada’s first ever silver medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Japan, and became the first female to perform the difficult standing front quad half pike dive. Besides her athletic skills, she’s renowned on social media (about four million followers and counting) for her joyous approach to life and for speaking candidly about her experiences with anxiety and learning to love herself. The Walleye reached Carlson in Montreal where she now lives and trains. The Walleye: When you were in Thunder Bay last winter, you and your partner [British diver Aidan Heslop] did a diving demonstration at the Canada Games Complex. What was that like, going back to where it all started? Molly Carlson: That was so special. I didn’t realize how emotional I would get on that trip. To see all these young athletes with so much hope and excitement about doing the sport that I love was inspiring. And yeah, jumping off the 10 metre, it looked way higher than I remembered. TW: What do you like to do when you’re back home in Thunder Bay? MC: Honestly, just not cook! To have family cook for you or to bring you persians are probably the best things that I could ever ask for. I love it. We live in this highrise apartment in Montreal, we travel underground on the Metro, we never go outside when we’re in this training lifestyle. So to go back to Thunder Bay and to reconnect with nature is so important. TW: You started #BraveGang, an online community where people can share stories about how they have overcome fears in their lives. Why do you think that’s made such a connection with people? MC: It’s my outlet where I can share the truth behind this crazy life. It’s so fast paced and exciting and full of victories and accomplishments and it can be a lot, but I also suffer with extreme anxiety, so to be able to share that side of my mental health [is important]. I want to help people and remind them that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s been really powerful and relatable to a lot of people online. TW: You’re giving ballet a try—what does that mean for you? MC: Ballet has been such a dream come true. First of all, it helped my diving tremendously—my posture and my form and my balance. And, when I’m diving or doing ballet I’m so in the moment that it’s like the first time my brain is silent from all the worries and the stresses. I’m not even good at ballet, I just love going. And I think I’ve been showing people that you don’t need to be amazing at your hobbies to feel proud of yourself. TW: What are you planning for in 2024? MC: I’ve been doing all of this work of building up the [Brave Gang] brand and the community authentically, but we want to give back and I’m going to start travelling across the country and speaking to schools and students about mental health and sports and self-care and self-love. So I’m so pumped about that, because […] I can inspire the next generation to be kind to themselves. TW: The diving community hopes that the 20-metre platform event is going to be an official event in the 2028 Olympics. Do you have a longterm plan for that? MC: Oh, your girl will be a 2028 Olympic champion. [laughs] I’m definitely training for that event. And hopefully it comes true: the more we can get this sport known through social media and excitement, the more countries will join and we need just a few more countries to get that solidified for 2028. So no matter what I’ll be high diving until then, and if it doesn’t happen or does I’m sure life will still be great. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.