VICTORIA – Kylie Masse has served notice she will be one of the swimmers to beat at this year’s FINA World Championships in Budapest.
The Olympic bronze medallist from Windsor, Ont., swam the fastest time in the world this year and came within an eyelash of setting a world record in the women’s 100-metre backstroke during Thursday’s opening day of the 2017 Team Canada Trials.
Masse won the evening final in 58.21 seconds, just .09 of a second off the world record held by Gemma Spofforth of Great Britain. Masse also broke the America’s record of 58.33 held by American Missy Franklin.
Her time was better than the 58.45 swam by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu to win the gold medal in the 100 back at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Masse went into the final feeling confident after swimming a Canadian record 58.42 in the morning preliminaries.
“This morning was my first race and getting my feet wet, there was no pressure,” she said. “I just went out there and had fun with it.
“I just tried to replicate the same thing. I tried to accelerate more in my last 25 and that really helped.”
Masse, who attend the University of Toronto, believes the world record is in her sights.
“That’s every swimmer’s dream,” she said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”
There was a tie for second with Hilary Caldwell, who trains at the High Performance Centre-Victoria, and Dominique Bouchard of the Oakville Aquatic Club finishing in 1:00.25.
Both were under the FINA A qualifying time of 1:00.61 needed to be nominated for the world championship team. Caldwell was awarded the second spot because she swam a faster time in the preliminaries.
Caldwell, who won bronze in the 200-back in Rio, said swimming against Masse made her faster.
“It’s pretty cool to be in a heat with her,” said Caldwell. “To be beside her, it’s doing great things for our backstrokers in Canada.”
The trials, which end Sunday, have attracted over 400 swimmers to Saanich Commonwealth Place looking to earn a spot on the Canadian team which will compete at the FINA World Championships July 14-30 in Budapest.
Preliminary heats begin at 10 a.m. each day, with finals set for 6 p.m. All sessions will we webcast live on CBC Sports at http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/aquatics/canadian-swimming-trials-stream-1.4054804.
To qualify for individual events at the world championships swimmers must finish in the top two in their races and be under the FINA A qualifying time.
Katerine Savard of Montreal swam a personal best time to win the gold medal in the women’s 200-m freestyle in 1:57.13 with Mary-Sophie Harvey of Trois-Rivières, Que., second in 1:57.81. Both were below the FINA A time of 1:58.68.
“This will be the eighth time I’m representing Canada and I’m really happy about that,” said Savard who was part of the bronze-medal winning 4×200-m freestyle relay in Rio. “I’m really excited to see what I can do this summer.”
Winning the relay medal boosted Savard’s confidence heading into this season.
“I wasn’t expecting that medal, so to be on the podium was amazing,” she said. “We started dreaming to be on the podium again. It’s going to be a good meet this summer.”
Kayla Sanchez of Toronto, who trains at the High Performance Centre-Ontario, was third in 1:58.28 while Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., who now swims for the Scarborough Swim Club, was fourth in 1:58.59. They will join Savard and Harvey on the 4×200-metre relay team in Budapest.
Savard believes the relay team can challenge for the podium at the world championship.
“I’m 23 and I’m feeling old,” she laughed. “They are so young and so fast. I knew if I wanted to make the team I had to swim fast.”
Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., heaved a sigh of relief after swimming the 200-m breaststroke in 2:24.36, below the qualifying time of 2:25.91. Ashley McGregor of the Pointe-Claire Swim Club was second in 2:25.32 while Sarah Darcel of the Island Swimming Club was third in 2:27.74.
Smith, who was a member of the Rio Olympic team, was happy to earn a qualifying spot on the first night of the trials. Her family was in the stands watching.
“It just takes a lot of the pressure off,” said Smith, who now swims at the University of Minnesota. “I’m just going to race and enjoy the rest of the meet.”
Javier Acevedo of Toronto was the first man to secure a nomination for the world championship team by winning the 100-m backstroke in 53.64 seconds. That was under the qualifying time of 54.06.
Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., was second in 54.81.
Acevedo, who at 18 was the youngest man on last year’s Olympic team in Rio, said he just wanted to have some fun racing at the trials.
“I realized having fun is more important to me than thinking about times,” he said. “Having fun for me helps me gets the time like that.”
Thormeyer, who trains at the High Performance Centre-Vancouver, won the men’s 200-m freestyle in 1:48.33 but missed the qualifying time of 1:47.73. Victoria’s Jeremy Bagshaw was second in 1:48.90 while Carson Olafson of Cultus Lake, B.C., was third in 1:49.39.
Eli Wall of the Toronto Swim Club won the men’s 200-m breaststroke in 2:12.26, above the FINA qualifying time of 2:11.11. Ryan Telford of the Ajax Aquatic Club was second in 2:13.02 and James Dergousoff of the Chena Swim Club was third in 2:14.66.
John Atkinson, Swimming Canada High Performance Director, was pleased with the opening day results.
“Day one went the way I thought it would play out,” said Atkinson. “Credit to Kylie Masse and her coaches Linda Kiefer and Byron MacDonald on her great performance today. Two best times today and world class swimming.
“At the World Championship Trials in 2013 we had one woman in the heats go under 2:01 in the 200-m freestyle. This year we had seven under two minutes, so the depth is there.”
The two 50-m butterfly races, the men’s 800-m freestyle and the women’s 1,500-m were not selection races for the world championships.
Alexander Katelnikoff of the Calgary Cascade Swim Club took the gold in the men’s 800-m freestyle in 8:18.64. A pair of swimmers from Etobicoke Swimming finished behind Katelnikoff. Justin Konik took silver in 8:17:37 while bronze went to Jong Hoon Lee in 8:18.27.
Sadie Fazekas of Windsor Aquatic Club won the women’s 50-m freestyle in 26.90 with Marie-lou Lapointe of Montreal second in 27.15. Mabel Zavaros of the Oakville Aquatic Club was third in 27.29.
Penny Oleksiak, winner of four medals in Rio, led the qualifying in the 50-m butterfly with a time of 26.40 seconds but the 16-year-old from Toronto, who swims for the High Performance Centre-Ontario, was scratched from the final.
Matthew Dans of Ottawa won the men’s 50-m fly in 24.35 with Josiah Binnema of the Edmonton Keyano Swim Club second in 24.50. Alexandre Perreault of the Ottawa Swim Club was third in 24.58.
Stephanie Horner, a native of Beacons Field, Que., who now trains in Victoria, won the 1,500-m in 16:49.45. Brooke Lamoureux of Island Swimming was second in 17:02.67 while Martit Anderson of the Calgary Patriots Swim Club was third in 17:07.33.