INDIANAPOLIS – It was a busy – and profitable – night for Kylie Masse as she and two of Canada’s other top swimmers took part in the FINA Champions Series in Indianapolis.
Masse tied for the win in the 50-m backstroke, her time of 28.20 equalling Russian Anastasiia Fesikova for the glass star trophy and $10,000 prize awarded to winners at the new series, which launched earlier this year.
“I was surprised. It was nice to get the tie, the win I guess. The time was OK. The 50 isn’t really my best event, I just kind of spin my arms and see what I can do,” said Masse, the world champion in the 100-m backstroke.
Penny Oleksiak and Sydney Pickrem were also in action as the Indiana University Natatorium hosted the third and final leg of the Champions Series. The fast-paced format featured 15 four-lane finals Friday, with only the best of the best swimmers invited and prize money based on order of finish.
Masse opened the night with a third-place finish in the 200-m backstroke in 2:07.59.
“I think I had a strong 150. The last 50 I think I couldn’t really get my stroke rate any higher. I was kind of feeling a bit dull, but things to work on. It’s in season and building towards worlds , so I’m happy with that time right now,” Masse said.
She also had her name pulled to swim the mixed 4×100-m freestyle relay. The backstroker rolled over on to her front to anchor her team to second place. American Ryan Murphy and Brazilians Nicholas Santos and Etiene Medeiros join her in splitting a purse of $12,000, bringing Masse’s total to $19,000 US for the night.
“It was really fun, swimming with people you wouldn’t necessaarliy swim against or swim with ever. It was really fun, we were laughing and it keeps it light.
Pickrem also got into action as a participant in the mixed relay, teaming with Americans Jack Conger, Cody Miller and Hali Flickinger to finish third and pick up her share of an $8,000 team prize.
The teams are picked at random, meaning Olympic 100 free champion Oleksiak was left out this time, while backstroker Masse and medley swimmer Pickrem got a chance to show what they could do.
“It was really fun. We were joking about it all day because I wasn’t even going to swim today because the 200 (individual medley) is tomorrow,” Pickrem said with a laugh. “I just wanted to channel Penny Oleksiak. I told Ben (Titley, Penny’s coach at the High Performance Centre – Ontario) I’ll be Penny and I think I’m going to get in your group after this 100 free.”
Oleksiak, meanwhile, finished third in the 100-m butterfly in 58.44, and added a fourth-place finish in the 100 free at 54.22 to tally $11,000 in prize money.
Between them, the 50 swimmers in Indianapolis, representing 15 countries, have won 54 Olympic medals and 146 FINA World Championship medals. While Oleksiak competed at the second leg in Budapest earlier this month, it was the first time for Masse and Pickrem. With no morning heats or evening semifinals, the pace moves along briskly, with races interspersed with in-house entertainment. The estimated crowd of 1,500 enjoyed loud music, light shows, and performances from the Indiana Fever WNBA dance squad, IU cheerleaders, and Indiana Pacers NBA mascot Boomer and High Octane Drumline.
“It’s pretty sweet, I think it’s neat to have this type of atmosphere and environment,” Masse said. “A lot of other sports, when you get to this level, it is a big show and a big spectacle, so for swimming to be able to be moving in that direction, I think it’s fantastic for the sport and I’m happy to be in it right now.”
“We all just came in like, ‘What is this going to be like?’ It’s really inspiring to be around people that are all kind of at your type of level,” added Pickrem, the 400-m IM world bronze medallist. “It’s nice to see and be with everyone driving toward the same goals, and just swimming and racing against them.”
All three Canadians will be in action again Saturday, with 15 more events, including the 100-m backstroke, in which Masse is the reigning world champion. Finals begin at 7 p.m. ET and can be viewed at www.finatv.live