INDIANAPOLIS/BUDAPEST – It was a busy day for some of Canada’s top swimmers, as Aly Ackman captured a FINA World Cup bronze medal, while seven others made their debuts at the inaugural International Swimming League event.
Ackman’s time of 2:00.77 was good for third place in the women’s 200-m freestyle at the FINA long-course competition in Budapest.
“I didn’t really realize I had won a medal. I saw my time and I was relatively happy with it. And I saw the ‘3’ (on the scoreboard) but I was like, ‘Oh, that’s my lane.’ Then I look over and I saw another ‘3’ and I was like, ‘Oh snap, I got third!’ Ackman said.
The 26-year-old Pembroke, Ont., native returned to international swimming after a three-year absence and picked up four medals at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games this summer. She’s recently battled some nagging shoulder and ankle issues, but was able to overcome them Saturday.
“I was really nervous thinking I wouldn’t be able to swim this weekend or might have to back off a little bit, but I’m back on track with both of those and feeling really excited for the next few weeks,” Ackman said. “It really gave me some confidence going into the rest of the meet and next weekend too. I’m really excited to represent Canada here and super honoured to be here. I’m going to learn so much from the athletes and support staff here, so I’m really excited about using that into the next few months getting ready for (Olympic) Trials (March 30-April 5 at Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.)”
Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, seven Canadians were in action as the International Swimming League made its debut in Indianapolis.
About 1,200 fans filled the Indiana University Natatorium for the first of two days of fast-paced, finals-only short-course swimming. The event features full team introductions, light shows and video boards, with swimmers competing for points for their respective teams. A live DJ performed throughout, with music continuing even during races and the only quiet moments coming at the “take your marks” just before the start of each race.
Teammates swim beside each other, with two from each of four teams making up an eight-lane final for each race, and relay points counting double. Swimmers not competing gather in team boxes poolside to cheer on their teammates.
Kylie Masse of Windsor, Ont., became the first Canadian to win an ISL event, taking the women’s 200-m backstroke in a personal best 2:01.89 to put her Cali Condors in first after the ninth of Saturday’s 19 events.
“We’ve been told a number of times this is part of history in swimming. I think it’s fantastic for the sport so to be able to be part of it now, especially the first meet, is really exciting,” Masse said. “I think we have such a great team. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know them, we really had fun in the box, joking around and cheering lots supporting our teammates.”
Energy Standard ended the day on top, holding a 250-229.5 lead over Cali, with DC Trident third at 165 and Aqua Centurions fourth at 163.5. Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom was the top point-getter with 22.5, with Masse the top Canadian, sixth overall with 14.
Energy Standard featured the most Canadians of the four teams competing, with Penny Oleksiak, Rebecca Smith, Kayla Sanchez and Kierra Smith of the High Performance Centre – Ontario joining Marie-Sophie Harvey of Trois-Rivieres, Que. Two-time world champion Masse, is among the stars representing the Cali Condors, alongside Winnipeg’s Kelsey Wog.
“Going out there with a teammate, hoping they do well, hoping you do well and trying to score points for your team, it’s a way different mindset of racing going for points instead of a time,” Kierra Smith said.
The Kelowna, B.C., native finished third in the women’s 200-m breaststroke at 2:22.15 (Wog was second in 2:18.68).
“Getting to watch that close to the action was different,” Smith said. “It felt like a big meet atmosphere so to be right beside the blocks, you could actually see the big names that are here. Even if they’re on your team they’re big names, so to be that close to them when they’re starting is cool, what an experience. I was trying to enjoy that, so whenever I had a few minutes to go and watch I made sure to go out there and cheer on my teammates and take in the whole experience.”
Meanwhile, in other action at the World Cup, Hanna Henderson of HPC-Ontario came fifth in the 100-m backstroke in 1:01.13. Josh Liendo of HPC-Ontario made his second final, finishing eighth in the 100-m freestyle in 50.12 after coming seventh in the 100-m butterfly (53.33) Friday. Also on Friday, Ackman was sixth in the 400 free in 4:14.42, while Taylor Ruck of HPC-Ontario was sixth in the 50 back at 28.94.
Both events conclude Sunday. CBC Sports is webcasting the International Swimming League at https://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/aquatics with highlights on the Road to the Olympic Games television show. FINA TV is carrying the World Cup webcast at https://www.finatv.live/