Molly Carlson, born and raised in small-town Ontario just near Thunder Bay, is a Senior National Team High Diver with Team Canada and mental health advocate who is on her way to seeing the Olympics. Molly is a Junior Pan-American Champion (2013 & 2015), Junior World Championship Finalist (2014 & 2016) and seven-time Junior National Champion. She started diving at just 9 years old, and after a strong early career in traditional diving, has switched to high diving in 2021, making her debut at the Red Bull Cliff Diving circuit in 2021.
Outside of her sport, Molly has taken the lessons that she’s learned as a young athlete in a competitive sport and channeled them–literally, on social media–to make difference. Molly started the hashtag #Bravegang on Instagram and Tiktok as a space for sharing inspiring and brave stories and steps forward. She is an advocate for mental health and for showcasing the real experiences and struggles that aren’t typically seen on social media.
We sat down with Molly to discuss her journey to diving, her career highlights, and the story behind her #bravegang success.
You grew up in Thunder Bay, what are your best memories from there?
I was born 4 hours away from Thunder Bay in a little town called Fort Frances, Ontario, and I moved to Thunder Bay when I was 1. My best memories are summer days looking out on the harbour and seeing the famous sleeping giant! My sister, Megan Carlson, was a swimmer and I was a diver… and we would have so much fun going to practise every day as the ‘aqua sisters’ of Thunder Bay. We were very well known and supported at the Canada Games complex, which made practice extra fun with a little competitive edge between the two of us!
At the age of 9, you decided to go from the aerial life of a gymnast to the aquatic life of a diver, what inspired that change?
After going to the pool to watch my sister’s swimming practice and seeing the divers in the deep end jump from incredible heights, I discovered my passion for diving. I wanted to join them so badly that I asked my mom to make the switch.
Who has been your greatest inspiration throughout your career?
My greatest inspiration has always been my mom. No matter what challenges came her way, she worked so hard to let us continue to do what we loved (swimming and diving). She reminded me that your most successful self will be the one that followed their passion.
When you’re up on the platform getting ready for a dive during a competition, what is going through your mind?
Studies have shown that I’m actually the only high diver that slows down my heart rate before jumping off a platform. Leading up to the dive, my mind swirls with negative thoughts… ‘don’t jump’, ‘don’t forget to twist’, ‘don’t do it’… but those thoughts are just natural survival instincts at play. To calm my nerves, I focus on key corrections and words my coach Stephane Lapointe gave me, so that my mind is filled with focus and positivity. Once I get my feet on the edge, my focus becomes so intense that my heart rate slows and I can nail my dive!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My most proud athletic accomplishment is being the only woman in the world to have ever received a perfect 10 score on a Front Quad Half Pike. Only two girls in the world do this dive (another Canadian, Aimee Harrison) and it’s the second hardest female high dive ever attempted. To do it perfectly makes all the hard work worth it.
Another accomplishment I’m really proud of is creating my own hashtag #BraveGang that is about to hit 1 BILLION views on tiktok! By simply being myself, sharing my own brave journeys, as well as encouraging others to share their brave stories using the hashtag. It’s created a community I am so proud of and love being a part of!
Tell us more about #BraveGang, and why you were moved to create this community.
I think my motivating factor in creating this community was my personal struggle with mental health. I wanted to change my appearance to reach big goals like going to the Olympics or gaining a big following on social media. But this just turned into a binge eating disorder and a life of body dysmorphia. I struggled with this in silence for a year and was too scared to ask for help. Now that I am healthier and can truly be myself on social media, I never want anyone else to feel alone or be too scared to ask for help. Mental health is so important, especially for the youth growing up with social media at their fingertips. I want my BraveGang community to be a platform where people feel safe to be themselves!
You have 3.5million TikTok followers, what is the secret to your success?
Being yourself is the secret to gaining a following! There is only one you, so be the best version of it! Tips I can share is to show an experience from your everyday life… a community that supports this journey will be the healthiest following you can have. Find your people!
If you could wish for anything in the world, what would you wish for?
I would wish for all mental health stigma to end, and endless free resources to be available to those who need help.
What are some of your favourite hobbies?
Some of my favourite hobbies are content creating, videography, and ballet!
What does a perfect day look like for you?
A perfect day for me would look like waking up with self love and minimal anxiety… (just good energy butterflies) and feeling comfortable to be myself and share the day with my following. Then, going to practise and doing what I love while spending that time to focus on the present moment and do amazing dives. After that, finishing the day surrounded by the healthiest close circle, including family and friends that bring me happiness and positivity. Overall, being kind to myself, spending the day doing what I love, and sharing my perfect day with my positive community.