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Canadian divers take to twitter for support from home in the Olympics

Diver Jennifer Abel of Canada smiles during a welcome ceremony at the Olympic Park in London July 25, 2012.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

The Canadian Olympic diving team has got the Twitter bug.

Unlike other delegations, however, they aren't cutting down on their tweets during the London Games.

Roseline Filion, Jennifer Abel and Meaghan Benfeito, the most junior members in the women's team, are even running a friendly bet on who gets the most followers.

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"Jen is on her way to pass me, but I'm still ahead," Filion said.

Their battle is close. Filion and Abel have been inching close to 1,000 followers, while Benfeito has just under 900.

Emilie Heymans, the most senior member among Canada's women's divers, has just reached 1,000 followers.

Two-time Olympic silver medallist Alexandre Despatie, however, is in a league of his own with 12,000 followers.

"We got hooked (on it) and I don't see us stopping because of the Games," says Abel. "For me, it helps me handle my stress to get all this support from people I don't know.

"This week, I realized (Montreal actor) Guy A. Lepage is following me. I thought, 'Wow, maybe he'll invite me to his show!"'

For Filion, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, "are just fun and pleasure." The Laval, Que., native says she thinks the tweets they post during the games may help create more buzz for diving.

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Diving coach Cesar Henderson won't be asking anyone to drop their smartphones any time soon either.

"I find it positive that they stay in touch with friends and family thanks to technology, so they don't feel so lonely," he said. "In addition to being athletes, these are young women who should live their lives."

Henderson says they are all capable of managing their free time while still focusing on diving.

"Outside, they are free to do whatever they want because that's just life," Henderson said.

Filion and Abel say they know the rules of the International Olympic Committee and will try to stay out of any controversies.

Bad Twitter form has already cost one athlete at the London Games. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from her country's Olympic team Wednesday over a racist tweet towards African immigrants in Athens. She later apologized for the "bad taste joke."

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"Personally, I wasn't offended," says Abel, who is Haitian-born. "But I understand we are in 2012 and that we should pay attention to everything we say. Not just at the Olympics, but everywhere."

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