TORONTO – A record-breaking performance in the women’s 100m backstroke by Rio bronze medallist Kylie Masse highlighted the first night of finals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Trials, presented by Bell, which kicked off on Saturday and run through Wednesday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
Masse of LaSalle, Ont., was one of four swimmers provisionally nominated by Swimming Canada’s Selection Committee earlier this year who cemented their Olympic status on Day 1, along with Margaret Mac Neil of London, Ont., winner of the women’s 100m butterfly, Markus Thormeyer of Delta., B.C., victorious in the men’s 100m back, as well as Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., who placed second in the women’s 100m back after earning a previous nomination in the 100m freestyle.
Other athletes who qualified for nomination to the Tokyo 2020 squad on opening night included Joshua Liendo of Markham, Ont., who took the men’s 100m butterfly, Calgary’s Cole Pratt, who was second in the men’s 100m back, and Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., second in the women’s 100m fly.
Masse posted the Bell Performance of the Night in the third final, a lightning-fast 57.70 seconds, the third fastest time ever in the women’s 100m back. She annihilated her own Canadian mark of 58.10 set at the 2017 FINA world championships, which stood as the world record at the time.
“The 58 barrier, I’ve been kind of chomping at the bit to break it for a number of years now, so it feels amazing to have done that. I’m really pleased with myself,” said the two-time 100 back world champion, a University of Toronto product who has been training at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “Personally, I think it’s amazing seeing all the fast times around the world and I’ve tried to just stay in the present moment about what’s going on in our own country. I can only control competitions and training in our own country.”
Ruck, a fellow 2016 Olympian who trains at HPC-Ontario, was second in the final with a time of 59.60, well under the Olympic A qualifying time of 1:00.25.
Another national record fell on Saturday, courtesy of Liendo, who touched the wall in 51.40 in the men’s 100m fly preliminaries to lower the previous Canadian standard of 51.83 set at Rio 2016 by Santo Condorelli. Liendo followed up with a winning time of 51.72 in the evening final to move one step closer to his first Olympic appearance at just 18 years of age.
“It feels great. I’ve seen a lot of guys from other countries who are 18 make an Olympic team, and, you know, it got me fired up, I wanted to be there too,” said Liendo, who also trains at HPC-Ontario under coach Ben Titley. “This morning, I had a good start, good reaction time. I felt really smooth through that first 50, something I should have done more tonight I feel, but that first 50 felt really smooth and I was able to bring it back home really well.”
Mac Neil, a 21-year-old from the London Aquatic Club, and Savard, a 28-year-old national team veteran from Club Aquatique Montréal, opened the evening session with a 1-2 finish in the women’s 100m fly, with times of 56.19 and 57.86, respectively.
“Tonight definitely made it feel more real than it’s been the last five months, so I’m definitely more excited heading into July,” said Mac Neil, the 2019 world champion in a Canadian record time of 55.83. “I think, for me, it was just about getting up there and racing and getting a little bit more familiar with the 100 fly again. It’s been a while since I’ve done a couple good ones, especially a prelim and final format, so I was definitely excited to get that under my belt.”
Savard, a two-time Olympian in 2012 and 2016, was thrilled with her performance after failing to qualify in the event four years ago.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I’m kind of surprised. I’m really happy. I was focusing more on the 200 free but I’m shocked and overwhelmed that I did it in the 100 fly. I’ll keep training as hard as I can between now and Tokyo.”
In the men’s 100m back, Thormeyer, a Rio Olympian from HPC-Vancouver, and Pratt, an 18-year-old from Cascade Swim Club in Calgary, finished in 53.40 and 53.54, respectively.
“I think, personally, I didn’t go as fast as I would have wanted, but I guess I’m saving that for Tokyo,” said Thormeyer, who holds the Canadian mark of 53.35. “Tonight I was thinking okay I just need to make sure I’m feeling the water right on the first 50 and then I think I started to pay for it a bit at the end and. I just kind of faded a bit, and I saw Cole coming up on me and I was like Oh, my goodness, this kid, I don’t want to lose. It was a good fight and I’m glad he was there to push me because I feel like I wouldn’t have gone as fast if he wasn’t there.”
In the last two finals of Day 1, the women’s and men’s 400m freestyle, Alyson Ackman of Pointe-Claire, Que., and Peter Brothers of Victoria took the wins in 4:10.92 and 3:49.35, respectively.
A total of 184 swimmers from 65 clubs across the country are competing for spots on Team Canada for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that are taking place July 23 – Aug. 8. The invitation-only event includes preliminary heats and finals for all events of 200 metres in distance or shorter, with timed finals being offered for distances 400 metres and longer.
Daily preliminary heats begin at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET. Evening finals follow beginning at 5:30 p.m.
All sessions from Swimming Canada’s flagship event are streamed in English at cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices and the free CBC Gem streaming service. Additionally, CBC Sports weekly staple ROAD TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES will provide broadcast coverage on Saturday, June 26 starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on CBC TV.
NOTES: The Canadian swimming team for Tokyo 2020 will be officially announced Thursday on Swimming Canada, COC and CBC digital channels… Six swimmers were provisionally nominated by Swimming Canada’s Selection Committee earlier this year, including Kylie Masse (100m and 200m backstroke), Margaret Mac Neil (100m butterfly), Penny Oleksiak (200m freestyle), Sydney Pickrem (200m breaststroke, 200m and 400m individual medley), Taylor Ruck (100m freestyle) and Markus Thormeyer (200m backstroke).
QUALIFIED FOR NOMINATION: TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES (after Day 1 of Trials)
Name Hometown Event(s)
Joshua Liendo Markham, Ont. Men’s 100m butterfly
Kylie Masse Lasalle, Ont. Women’s 100-200m backstroke
Margaret Mac Neil London, Ont. Women’s 100m butterfly
Penny Oleksiak Toronto, Ont. Women’s 200m freestyle
Sydney Pickrem Halifax, N.S. Women’s 200m breaststroke, 200-400m IM
Cole Pratt Calgary, Alta. Men’s 100m backstroke
Taylor Ruck Kelowna, B.C. Women’s 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke
Katerine Savard Pont-Rouge, Que. Women’s 100m butterfly
Markus Thormeyer Delta, B.C. Men’s 100-200m backstroke