GWANGJU, South Korea – Canada was once again well-represented in finals as the FINA World Championships reached their halfway point Wednesday in Gwangju, South Korea.
The mixed medley relay of Kylie Masse, Richard Funk, Maggie MacNeil and Yuri Kisil finished fifth and Penny Oleksiak added a sixth-place finish in the women’s 200-m freestyle. Already Canada’s best-ever meet with two gold medals – and a total of four – Wednesday’s swims were the sixth and seventh finals for Canada.
All four relay swimmers went faster than they did in their preliminary heat, qualifying Canada’s spot in the new event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We’re really excited. I know we ended up getting bronze a couple years ago and tonight we weren’t quite on that, but I’m so proud of us and I think we’re really good for where we are right now, and we have a spot next year which is all that really matters,” MacNeil said.
“Relays are all about just stepping up,” Funk added. “Day 1 I didn’t have the swim that I wanted to in my individual (event) but this is so much different. I just know it’s not about myself and I just tried to reel in Russia, hold off the Netherlands and do everything I can to give Maggie less waves going into the fly.”
Earlier in the session, Oleksiak clocked 1:56.59 to near her best time and move up a spot from her seventh-place seeding in the 200 free. On the heels of her personal best 1:56.41 in her semifinal, Oleksiak went out even faster and led at the first turn on a split of 26.48 before falling back into the pack. Italian Federica Pellegrini stopped the clock at 1:54.22 for gold, followed by Australian Ariarne Titmus in 1:54.66. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom took bronze with a time of 1:54.78
“Penny Oleksiak made her first world final in the 200 freestyle, swam a best time in the semifinals and tonight went out for the swim. She showed great intent with how she raced the 200 freestyle so that’s really positive for Penny,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson. “The mixed medley relay event is now an Olympic event. It’s fantastic that by getting through to the final placing fifth, that team has qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The four athletes that went into that gave it their best tonight, came in fifth and we think that was a really solid performance from that group.”
In other notable results from Wednesday’s prelims, Kisil just missed the men’s 100-m freestyle semifinals, finishing 17th by 0.02 seconds with a time of 48.79. Meanwhile, Calgary’s Cole Pratt made his world championships debut with a 36th-place finish in the men’s 200-m individual medley (2:04.26).
The eight-day meet continues through Sunday at the Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center.
Oleksiak and Kelowna, B.C., native Taylor Ruck will be back in action in the women’s 100-m freestyle heats Thursday morning (Wednesday evening in Canadian time zones). Pratt will also be back in the pool for the men’s 200-m backstroke, as will Sydney Pickrem and Winnipeg’s Kelsey Wog in the women’s 200-m breaststroke. Gabe Mastromatteo of Kenora, Ont., will make his world championships debut in the men’s 200 breast. Canada will also swim the women’s 4×200-m freestyle relay.
FINA TV (https://www.finatv.live/en), CBC (https://www.cbc.ca/sports/broadcast) and Radio-Canada (https://ici.radio-canada.ca/sports/horaire-diffusions) will webcast finals live at 7 a.m. ET each day, with highlights on CBC’s Road to the Olympic Games show. Viewers can download the CBC broadcast schedule to sync with smartphone calendar apps here: http://calrep.ly/2JDCwxx
Visit www.swimming.ca for bios, profiles, preview stories and recaps, and follow Swimming Canada on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates throughout the championships.