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Oleksiak joins Masse with wins at FINA Champions Series

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kylie Masse swam to her second win in as many nights, and Penny Oleksiak joined the glass star party as the third and final leg of FINA’s new Champions Swim Series wrapped up in Indianapolis Saturday.

Masse entered the water for the 100-m backstroke with the crowd of 1,500 at the Indiana University Natatorium pumped up after an acrobatic performance of flips and handsprings by the Beale Street Flippers.

The 2017 world champion from Windsor, Ont., kept the energy going by beating Italian Margherita Panziera for her second glass star of the weekend and a prize of $10,000 US. Masse wasn’t thrilled with being more than a second off her personal best, but will build on the victory as she works towards peaking at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea, in July.

“I’m not too happy with the time, but we are in season and I’m in the midst of training,” said the University of Toronto swimmer, who tied for the win in 50 back Friday. “I can take that back into training and work on that second 50 and that back-end speed to get it back where I want it to be.”

Penny Oleksiak finished off her meet with a win in the 200-m freestyle. Her time of 1:57.18 was just off her personal best, and enough to beat American Leah Smith (1:57.84).

“It was tough. I was trying the whole race not to get too excited. It hurt a lot the last 25,” said the 18-year-old Torontonian.

The $10,000 prize brought Oleksiak’s two-day total to $21,000.

“Meets like these that allow me to race faster people once, it shows me where I’m at at the moment and what I need to work on moving forward. I like it a lot,” she said.

Sydney Pickrem was the second Canadian in the water and came agonizingly close to another win. Pickrem led the 200-m individual medley by more than a second after 150 metres, but Olympic and world champion Katinka Hosszu of Hungary charged her down on the final few strokes for the win in 2:08.50. The world bronze medallist’s time of 2:08.61 set a Canadian record and earned her a prize of $8,000, for a weekend total of $10,000.

Masse and Pickrem both also participated in the mixed medley relay, with teams drawn at random. Masse teamed with Russian Yuliya Efimova, Brazilian Nicholas Santos and American Townley Haas for a second-place finish. Her share of a $12,000 prize brought her weekend total to $32,000.

Pickrem’s team, with Russians Anastasiia Fesikova and Vladimir Morozov and American Michael Andrew, came fourth.

A total of 50 of the world’s top swimmers competed over the two-day event in Indianapolis, representing 15 countries, with a combined 54 Olympic and 146 FINA World Championship medals.

The Champions Series debuted a four-lane finals-only format, with only the best of the best swimmers invited, prize money based on order of finish and a spectacle of lights, smoke and in-house entertainment.

“You don’t really know what to expect because anyone could come in ready to swim, not ready to swim. You really don’t know because you don’t have the morning to judge it, but it’s really fun to just kind of see where you stand,” said Oleksiak, who will travel directly to Europe with her High Performance Centre – Ontario teammates for the Mare Nostrum tour.

“It’s different but I think it’s important to be able to get up and race whenever you need to. To have this is kind of like a prep,” Masse said. “It’s really not focusing on what I did before, just being in the moment and recognizing when I need to go.”

Full results: http://omegatiming.com/Competition?id=0001130109FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF&sport=AQ&year=2019