VICTORIA — Stephen Bains is the sort of bus driver who strives to say “welcome” to all his passengers, which has earned kudos from more than a few.
“‘Wow! You’re the only driver who turns his whole upper body to greet us!’” Stephen recalls one passenger saying.
Going above and beyond has been a priority for both Stephen and his girlfriend Celina Toth since they first met.
“Our determination and work ethics were very in sync,” Stephen says with a smile.
While Stephen puts metaphorical blood, sweat and tears into driving, Celina has invested the real thing into diving.
“She’s been working the last 12 years, seven days a week, on the Olympics,” Stephen says proudly. “When she was able to accomplish that, I knew I had to do something.”
While Celina was training to compete in Tokyo, Stephen was considering how to wish her well from Victoria.
“(I was thinking about) an amped-up slogan,” Stephen says. “And I know Diving Canada has ‘We Fly.’”
Stephen worked with BC Transit to use five double-decker buses (to represent the number of Olympic rings and height of her dives). Then he lined the buses up to make a message.
“It turned out great,” Stephen says. “It was magnificent!”
He posted a picture on social media and invited Celia to take a look.
“‘Cool Stephen. Another picture of you in front of a bus!,” Celina says with a smile in Tokyo, recalling her reaction.
“And then he’s like, ‘No. No, What do the buses say?!’”
The message on the buses said “Fly High Celina.”
“I just burst out laughing!” Celina says. “That’s super thoughtful!”
But then Celina started scrolling past the picture to the message that Stephen wrote. It praised her kindness and conviction, her strength and intelligence. Instead of laughing, Celina’s eyes started welling.
“It was a really difficult year with COVID and I wasn’t sure I was going to continue on (training),” Celina says. “I was in a very dark, low place.”
But no matter how low, Stephen was always there with “fly high.” Celina says it gave her a sense of hope beyond sports, which led to an extra boost to keep her Olympic dream alive.
“I say this is sports and relationships — never give-up,” Celina says. “If you want something, it will happen.”
And although the pandemic means Stephen can’t be poolside in Japan, his support from Canada is already making a big splash.
“If I can show (Celina) that although we’re not there, we’re with you, then, I suppose, mission accomplished,” Stephen says.