Meaghan Benfeito and Alex Dupuis standing after condo fire

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Olympic diver Meaghan Benfeito and Saskatchewan Roughriders fullback Alex Dupuis emerged from a devastating condo fire.

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This year has started with a historic low for Olympic diver Meaghan Benfeito and her boyfriend, Saskatchewan Roughriders back Alex Dupuis.

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On January 28, the condo in Mirabel, Quebec that Benfeito shared with Dupuis burned down. The young couple lost everything, but luckily no one was injured in the fire that destroyed the 15-unit, three-story building about 45 minutes from downtown Montreal.

Benfeito lost his three Olympic bronze medals and his two Pan American Games medals. His champagne-colored 2016 BMW sports vehicle unit was also destroyed in the fire, along with all of his Team Canada gear.

The same goes for all the trophies, jerseys and soccer balls that Dupuis acquired during his football career.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” said Dupuis, who lives with Benfeito in Regina during the 2021 CFL season. “You can tell it’s the lowest I’ve ever been. At the same time, it was a highlight because you realize how many people are around you, how much they love you and how much they care about you. It was heartwarming and really gave us a boost to get through that. “

Meaghan Benfeito's condo and car were destroyed in a fire in Montreal on January 28.  Photo courtesy of Meaghan Benfeito.
Meaghan Benfeito’s condo and car were destroyed in a fire in Montreal on January 28. Photo courtesy of Meaghan Benfeito.

The fire started between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. after a propane tank exploded on the balcony under their third-floor accommodation. This is normally when Benfeito takes a bath, but the decision to postpone his daily ritual likely saved his life.

“I was literally getting my things ready for the bath and I heard an explosion,” she said. “It looked like someone was knocking on our bedroom window, but it was impossible because we lived on the third floor. Then I looked out the patio door and saw orange. There was a fire and I knew I had to go.

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Benfeito grabbed his keys, phone, jacket and scarf and ran out of the building, but still took the time to check on a neighbor’s welfare.

Safe outside, she called Dupuis at work to inform him of the situation. He rushed home to find their house ablaze.

“There are no words to describe it,” said Dupuis. “It’s just a feeling of emptiness when you look at him.”

The nightmare has come with a bright side for the likeable couple, who met 2.5 years ago on Instagram.

“Until something bad happens, you don’t know the impact you have on people,” said Benfeito, who has represented Canada at three Summer Olympics. “You don’t know if people really like you until something like that happens. There were tons of people I thought I’d never talk to again and did so much for us.

The International and Canadian Olympic Committees have stepped up, producing replica medals to replace those Benfeito lost in the blaze. The Pan American Games committee also created reproductions of the medals she had won.

Meaghan Benfeito lost the bronze medal she won in the 10-meter platform at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Meaghan Benfeito lost the bronze medal she won in the 10-meter platform at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Tyler Anderson /Postmedia Thread

Benfeito appreciated the efforts to replace her medals, but the lines are not the same ones she cherished.

“They were all the sacrifice and dedication that I put into my sport,” she said. “All those years of hard work and then they’re gone.”

The lives of Benfeito and Dupuis continued, even as they faced the problems associated with a devastating fire. They took two days off and then resumed training for their respective sports.

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However, Benfeito did not have a bathing suit as it was destroyed in the fire. That’s when his friends and teammates stepped in with clothes and a swimsuit.

“It obviously wasn’t mine, but I had enough gear to be able to dive,” she said.

Fullback Alex Dupuis landed on his feet with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Fullback Alex Dupuis landed on his feet with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Chief Position

Dupuis, 31, had his career to spare, signing as a free agent with the Edmonton Elks on February 4. He was released on June 28 and two days later signed with the Montreal Alouettes, his hometown. He was released on August 16, without having played a game.

Next step: Saskatchewan, which signed on August 16. Later in the week, he dressed for his first Riders game, against the Ottawa Redblacks. He’s appeared in seven games, recording two receptions for eight yards.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” said Dupuis, who was selected in the fourth round (36th overall) of the 2014 CFL Draft by the Toronto Argonauts of the University of Montreal. “I try to make the most of it and show everyone who let me down or set me free that they were wrong.”

Benfeito, 32, has been with Dive Canada since 2005.

Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion celebrate bronze medal at 2016 Summer Olympics
Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion celebrate bronze medal at 2016 Summer Olympics Photo by Adam Jolie /Getty Images

Benfeito and his partner, Roseline Filion, won bronze medals in the 10-meter synchronized events at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics in London and Rio de Janeiro, respectively. Benfeito also won a bronze medal in the 10m individual platform in Rio de Janeiro.

She was prepared for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but those Games have been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Benfeito competed at the recent Summer Games in Tokyo, finishing fourth in 10m synchronized diving (with Caeli McKay) and 13th in 10m platform.

“The results weren’t the best, but (Benfeito) took him like a champion,” said Dupuis. “She knew that everyone wanted to make the Cinderella story around her. It would have been great to have that story, but the reality is sometimes there is no Cinderella story. You don’t. end up on the podium after going through a fire and that’s the reality of life.

Benfeito moved to Regina. She has established links with the Regina Diving Club and mentors some of the young athletes.

“We don’t see a lot of Olympians coming here because diving is such a small sport,” said Regina Diving Club head coach Laura Desautels. “They all know her because they just finished watching her at the Olympics and she’s like a role model.

“It’s exciting for them to have this opportunity. It was nice for me to watch and see the excitement on their faces.

Benfeito doesn’t know if training is in his future. She said she didn’t have another Olympic cycle in her, but still wanted to compete in other events. She continued to train with these competitions in mind.

“I love being with the girls,” she said. “I like to try to help, to try to pass on my knowledge of diving to them. Coaching full time and competing, making plans and teaching new dives? I don’t want that.

His immediate concern is Saturday’s game between the Riders and the Alouettes at Percival-Molson Stadium. She made the trip to Montreal and looks forward to the game, as well as visiting family and friends.

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“I try to bring in as many as possible and wear green,” she said. “It will be good, because it’s a home game. Watching Alex play in our hometown will be really exciting.

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