GOLD COAST, Australia – Canada’s Kylie Masse added the title of Commonwealth Games champion to that of world champion with a record victory Saturday in the women’s 100-m backstroke.
The win highlighted a five–medal day for Canadian swimmers, including a triple podium performance for Taylor Ruck of Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre-Ontario.
Masse, of Windsor, Ont., bettered the Games record for a third time in two days, clocking 58.63 seconds. She edged Emily Seebohm of Australia (58.66) while Ruck was in the mix finishing third in 58.97.
‘’I’m always stronger on the last length,’’ said Masse, second at the turn. ‘’I didn’t panic. I didn’t know where Emily was in the race. She usually goes out quite fast so I was expecting we’d be close at the end.
‘’When I saw my name at the top of the board it was a feeling of relief and happiness.’’
Swimming Canada’s high performance director John Atkinson lauded Masse’s racing ability.
‘’It all comes down to the finish,’’ he said. ‘’Champions know how to get their hands on the wall. She went through the heats in varied weather conditions and nothing fazed her.’’
Jade Hannah of Halifax/HPC-Victoria was eighth in 1:00.83.
In the 50-m freestyle, Ruck broke the Canadian record in her second-place finish, clocking 24.26 to tie with Bronte Campbell of Australia. Chantal Van Landeghem held the previous national standard of 24.39 set in 2015.
‘’The 50 free is mainly a fun race for me,’’ said Ruck of Kelowna, B.C. ‘’I don’t know if I’ll focus on it a lot but I definitely like racing it.’’
Australia was 1-2 with Cate Campbell first in 23.78. Kayla Sanchez of the HPC-Ontario was sixth in a personal best 25.12 on her 17th birthday.
‘’I was focusing on the things that would help me drop some time,’’ said Sanchez. ‘’Especially since the 50 free goes by so fast, the small details really matter.’’
Ruck collected her third medal and fifth of the Games in the women’s 4×200-m freestyle. Australia took the gold in 7:48.04 followed by the Canadians in 7:49.66 with Penny Oleksiak of Toronto, Sanchez, Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., and Ruck.
That was the same Canadian foursome that won the world junior title last year in a world junior record 7:51.47.
‘’We just went out there and did our best,’’ said Smith. ‘’I’ve trained many years with these girls so this is amazing to do with them. We all did great and we are all happy with our times.’’
Atkinson admits that Ruck is a dream swimmer for the Canadian team.
‘’Those are the type of swimmers you hope to find,’’ he said. ‘’To be able to swim multiple events and come back at the end of the night and anchor the relay to the podium. She’s improving and we’ll get through her remaining events at these championships.’’
In the women’s 200-m individual medley Para-swimming race, Aurélie Rivard of HPC-Quebec took the silver in 2:31.79. Olympic champion Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand was the winner in 2:27.72. Katherine Downie of Australia took the bronze in 2:31.81.
‘’My strength is to finish strong but I just couldn’t do it tonight,’’ said Rivard. ‘’I know it’s an improvement from four years ago but the time was awful for me. Still I’m happy to win a close race for the silver.’’
Samantha Ryan of Saskatoon was seventh in 2:43.63 and Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., eighth in 2:48.32.
Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., added a fourth-place finish in the women’s 200-m breaststroke missing a berth on the podium by 0.20 seconds.
In men’s competition, Mack Darragh of Mississauga, Ont., the top-seed in the preliminaries, was sixth in the 200-m butterfly in 1:57.81.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with it but I did what I had to do this morning to get into the final,’’ he said. ‘’I never expected to be in Lane 4 in the final and I got a little nervous for it and I didn’t perform as well as I could.’’
In the semifinals, Oleksiak and Rebecca Smith qualified fourth and fifth in the 50-m butterfly in 25.94 and 26.68.
Yuri Kisil of Calgary qualified sixth in the men’s 100 free semis in 48.79. His HPC-Vancouver teammate Markus Thormeyer just missed the final in ninth at 49.22.
‘’This is my best swim of the meet so far and I just keep getting better,’’ said Kisil, now based at HPC-Vancouver. “It’s going to take some good hard racing just to make it on the podium.’’
Philippe Vachon of Trois-Rivieres, Que., was eighth in the men’s 100-m Para-swimming breaststroke in a personal best 1:29.14.
‘’I’ve been focusing on getting a best time for awhile,’’ said Vachon. ‘’The excitement of the Games has really pushed me to go hard as I can.’’
Atkinson is proud of his troops, who have accumulated nine medals at the halfway mark.
‘’The resiliency of the team is tremendous,’’ said Atkinson. ‘’This being the first Games towards Tokyo is really important for us and part of a stepping stone and strategy towards the next Olympics. Our goal is to have a group of men and women capable of doing something special.’’