BEIJING/KNOXVILLE, Ten. – Canadian swimmers found themselves on top at a pair of international competitions held over the weekend.
World championship medallist Sydney Pickrem knocked off Hungary’s “Iron Lady,” Katinka Hosszu, in the 200-m individual medley as the FINA Champions Swim Series concluded in Beijing Sunday.
Her time of 2:09.26 was fastest in the four-lane, finals-only, best-on-best format. Hosszu had won all four previous editions of the event at the Champions Series, edging Pickrem by 0.11 seconds last June in Indianapolis, and by 0.42 seconds last weekend in Shenzhen, China. Pickrem improved her time from that race by more than a second and a half.
“I’m pretty happy with it for this time of year,” Pickrem said. “I’ve been on the road racing and traveling and just wanted to race against the best as preparation for Tokyo. This was a good rehearsal for trials and I’m excited to get back to work for the next couple months and see what I can do in April.”
Meanwhile, Canadians posted three wins at the season opening stop on the Pro Swim Series in Knoxville, Ten.
Penny Oleksiak and Javier Acevedo delivered powerful final lengths to earn victories for Canada on Sunday after Mack Darragh highlighted a strong night for Canadian swimmers on Saturday.
Oleksiak delivered a powerful final length to come back from fourth and defeat Simone Manuel in the 100-m freestyle. Oleksiak’s time of 53.41 edged out her co-Olympic champion (53.44) and fellow American Erika Brown (53.49). Oleksiak’s High Performance Centre – Ontario teammate Kayla Sanchez was fourth in 53.74.
Javier Acevedo of Ajax, Ont., was the other Canadian winner Sunday, taking the 200-m backstroke in 1:59.90 ahead of Jeo Reilman of the U.S. and Andy Song of Mexico, who tied for second at 2:01.34.
On Saturday, Darragh clocked 1:59.29 to win the men’s 200-m butterfly, with Andrew Seliskar of the U.S. second at 1:59.60 and his compatriot Zach Harting third at 2:00.02.
“I didn’t know I had won it, I saw Seliskar running me down on the last 50 and I was just hoping I had everyone else by enough to hang on,” Darragh said. “The morning swim was more of a race to get into finals, and at night I tried to execute my race strategy. With a bit more conditioning the time will come down, but for this early on the year I am happy with it.”
Next up for Darragh and his HPC-Ontario teammates is a two-week training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Also Saturday, Acevedo roared back from sixth place at the turn to place second in the 100 back in 55.22. He was beaten by Justin Ress of the U.S., who won in 53.99. Sam Stewart of the U.S. was third in 55.72.
Other top-three finishers on the weekend included Yuri Kisil of HPC-Ontario, who took third spot in the men’s 100 free Sunday in 49.48. Americans Zach Apple and Ryan Held were 1-2 in 48.98 and 49.09.
There were two Canadian finalists in the women’s 100-m backstroke Saturday with Halifax native Jade Hannah of the High Performance Centre – Victoria notching third spot in 1:00.54. Regan Smith of the U.S. set a meet record for the win at 58.26 and her compatriot Phoebe Bacon was second at 58.86. Taylor Ruck from HPC-Ontario was fourth in 1:00.60.
In Friday’s finals, Josiah Binnema of HPC-Vancouver tied for third in the men’s 100 fly with American Ryan Held, both clocking 53.38. The U.S. was 1-2 with Giles Smith first in 52.56 and Dean Farris second in 53.07.