LONDON – The Canadian team continued to break records and haul in medals on Friday at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, upping its podium count to an even 10 with two days to go in the biennial competition, including two gold, five silver and three bronze.
The championships, which also serve as the first qualifying opportunity for Tokyo 2020, run until Sunday at the London Aquatics Centre, one of the main venues of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Webcast is available on the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Swimming Canada Facebook Live platforms, with finals streamed on CBC Sports.
For the second time in three nights, 16-year-old Aly Van Wyck-Smart of Toronto and 2016 Paralympian Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., both made their way to the podium, claiming bronze in the women’s 50-m backstroke S2 and in the women’s 200-m individual medley SM7, respectively.
Van Wyck-Smart did so in Canadian and Americas record time – 1:17.76 – just as she did on Wednesday when she captured silver in the 100-m back S2.
Routliffe also broke her second national mark in three days, thanks to a 2:58.06 swim, 48 hours after a silver-medal, record performance in the 100-m breaststroke S7.
Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate Director of High Performance and Para Swimming National Coach, couldn’t say enough good things about the double medal winners.
“Aly continues to demonstrate experience beyond her years, able to get up and perform under the bright lights in her international debut. Along with her coach at Variety Village, Ryan Jones, she has taken full advantage of the guidance and support provided to them by Swimming Canada’s targeted S1-S5 development program, led by Swimming Canada’s Para-swimming Performance Pathway Coach Janet Dunn.
“Tess again showed incredible racing spirit and tenacity to improve her best time by over three seconds. Her performance is a great reward for her. Again tonight, we see coach Mike Thompson’s program at the High Performance Centre – Quebec in Montreal able to prepare talented and professional swimmers to perform when it matters.”
Van Wyck-Smart’s time allowed her to lower her own previous 100-m back S2 standard of 1:18.19, set on Aug. 10 at the Canadian Championships in Winnipeg.
“I would have liked to swim a little faster but I’m still extremely happy,” said the world championship rookie. “The past month has really been exciting and I can’t wait to see what comes next. It’s my first time on the national team and these championships have been a huge confidence boost.”
In the 200-m IM SM7, Routliffe, the 2016 Paralympics and 2015 world championship silver medallist in the event, shattered her own previous Canadian record of 3:01.51 from the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships by an impressive 3.45 seconds.
Sitting in fourth place at the midway point of the race, she moved up to second at the 150-m mark thanks to a remarkable breaststroke.
“Coming into these championships, I really wanted best times. That’s what I was focusing on, see where those times would get me. I wasn’t super focused on medals or anything else,” said the 20-year-old. “I know my breaststroke is stronger than my other strokes. We knew from Rio that I could come back and put myself in a good position with that stroke. It was really uplifting to see myself catching up to the leaders and it pushed me to go even harder.”
Routliffe was part of a trio of Canadian Paralympians in the race. Camille Bérubé of Gatineau, Que., was sixth in 3:09.77, while Sabrina Duchesne of St-Augustin, Que., finished eighth in 3:17.53.
While he didn’t join Van Wyck-Smart and Routliffe on the podium, Nicolas-Guy Turbide of Quebec City produced another Canadian highlight on Day 5 with a Canadian and Americas record in the final of the men’s 200 IM SM13.
The 22-year-old Paralympian placed fifth in 2:14.86, lowering his own standard of 2:15.03 from last summer’s Pan Pacs in Australia.
“I can’t be disappointed with a lifetime best. I am very, very happy with my race. The other guys were just a little better than me tonight, but I know I’ll have many other chances to get on the podium in this event,” said Turbide, who trains at Club de natation Région de Québec with coach Marc-André Pelletier. “If there’s an advantage with my visual impairment, it’s that I’ve learned to swim against myself and not against the other swimmers in the pool. I’m able to focus specifically on what I want to do in the water, and I learn the result at the end.”
Lomas was thrilled with Turbide’s performance.
“Like Aly and Tess, Nicolas-Guy was rewarded for his commitment to excellence and process tonight with a PB. As team leader, that’s all I can ask for. Each swimmer gave everything tonight and showed all their talent, composure and spirit to perform when it matters. Congratulations to all three swimmers and their coaches.”
In the last event of the evening, the women’s 4×100-m medley relay 34 points final, Shelby Newkirk of Saskatoon, Katarina Roxon of Kippens, N.L., Danielle Dorris of Moncton, N.B., and Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., were fourth in 5:05.05 in a race won in world record time by Great Britain (4:36.31).
“Our goal over the next year is to get under five minutes, which tonight would have put us on the podium,” said Rivard, who along with Roxon, Dorris and London 2019 teammate Morgan Bird helped Canada to a fifth-place finish and a national mark of 5:01.13 at Rio 2016.
Four other Canadians also swam morning preliminaries on Day 5.
Calgary’s Bird and Abi Tripp of Kingston, Ont., narrowly missed the women’s 50-m freestyle S8 final, placing ninth (32.66) and 10th (32.97), respectively.
In the men’s 100-m freestyle S11, Matthew Cabraja of Woodbridge, Ont., finished 12th with a personal best time of 1:03.62, two hundredths of a second faster than his performance at the Canadian trials in April.
In the women’s 50-m freestyle S4, Nikita Ens of Meadow Lake, Sask., was 19th in 1:16.91.
The 2019 World Para Swimming Championships resume Saturday with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) and finals at 6 p.m. (1 p.m. ET).
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