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200 backstrokers advance, Smith eighth in 200 breast

2015 FINA –

KAZAN, Russia – Both Canadian women advanced to the 200-m backstroke final, while FINA World Championships rookie Kierra Smith gained valuable experience in a wild women’s 200-m breaststroke final Friday.

Canada got off to a strong start as both Dominique Bouchard of North Bay, Ont., and Hilary Caldwell of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria advanced through their semifinal at Kazan Arena.

Bouchard swam her second personal best of the day, turning in a 2:08.16, fourth-fastest in the semis.

“I just wanted to make the final, that’s been my goal this year. So I did that, which is awesome,” Bouchard said. “I would have liked to dip under the 2:08 but I’m really close and hopefully I can do it tomorrow night.”

Returning bronze medallist Caldwell was sixth in 2:08.99. That was nearly a two-second drop from her heat time (2:10.91) for Caldwell, who has been battling a stomach bug all week but did enough to keep her medal hopes alive.

“I just knew I was tougher than how I swam this morning,” Caldwell said. “All I need is a lane for tomorrow and I’m starting to feel a little better now. Hopefully by tomorrow night I’m back where I need to be to fight for a podium spot again.”

I just knew I was tougher than how I swam this morning. All I need is a lane for tomorrow. – Hilary Caldwell

Caldwell won gold, Bouchard silver at last month’s Pan Am Games in Toronto. But the pair face a tough field here that includes top seed Katinka Hosszu of Hungary (2:06.18), followed by Australian Emily Seebohm (2:06.56) and American Missy Franklin (2:07.79). Franklin is the defending world champion, while Hosszu and Seebohm just posted the two fastest times this year.

Meanwhile, Kelowna, B.C., native Smith finished eighth in a 200-m breaststroke final that saw an incredible three bronze medals awarded. Japan’s Kanako Watanabe, 18, won in 2:21.15, ahead of American Micah Lawrence (2:22.44). But Spain’s Jessica Vall Montero staged an incredible comeback from eighth, charging down world record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen of Denmark and Shi Jinglin of China to force a three-way tie at 2:22.76.

Smith’s time of 2:23.61 was slower than the personal best of 2:22.82 she set in her semifinal Thursday. But as the second-youngest woman in the field, the 21-year-old gained valuable experience as she follows in the footsteps of her role model, former world record holder Annamay Pierse.

“I’ve watched this final so many times and I watched every single one of Annamay’s moves, like she snapped and she did an arm thing and I still do some of those things. I grew up watching this final and I was like, ‘I’m in it right now.’

I grew up watching this final and I was like, ‘I’m in it right now.’ – Kierra Smith

To know that she was a world record holder and a real person and to come from B.C., that showed us that Canada can be competitive on the world stage. It was a big thing for me growing up and I continue to be motivated by that,” Smith said.

“Obviously I didn’t want to come eighth and I’m not happy with the time because I wanted to go faster. But it was a good experience and I’ve had a great day.”

“That was a great job tonight by Dominique Bouchard and Hilary Caldwell getting two Canadians through to the final of the 200 backstroke. They get to stand up tomorrow night and race that again,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “Also with Kierra Smith making her first world championship final in the 200 breaststroke and putting together a really solid three rounds of swims. It’s a great step forward for her and there’s more to come from her in the future.”

Meanwhile, in the women’s 50-m butterfly, Noemie Thomas of Richmond, B.C., finished 15th with a semifinal swim of 26.37, slightly faster than her morning time of 26.46.

Day 7 gets underway with Saturday morning heats beginning at 2:30 a.m. ET. Caldwell’s High Performance Centre – Victoria teammate Ryan Cochrane will be back in the pool for the men’s 1,500-m freestyle as he looks to add to his medal collection. The 26-year-old already has a bronze in the 400, his seventh medal all-time, most among Canadians. He holds three straight silver medals in the 1,500 to go with two Olympic medals, including silver in 2012.

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