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Mac Neil lowers world record as Canada adds three medals

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Every little thing counts in 50-m races and Maggie Mac Neil did every little thing right on Friday at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne, Australia.

 The London Aquatic Club product repeated as 50-m backstroke champion, lowering her world record by 0.02 seconds for a winning time of 25.25. Her gold medal was one of three podium appearances for Canada on Day 4 of the world short-course championships to bring Canada’s total to nine (2G-2S-5B) after Day 4 of the six-day meet at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

 The 22-year-old led start to finish to beat American Claire Curzan (25.54) and Australian Mollie O’Callaghan (25.61). Kylie Masse of La Salle, Ont., the returning silver medallist and reigning long-course world champion was fourth in 25.81.

“I’m ecstatic. I knew it would be hard to go a best time but I just really wanted to see the improvements and I’m glad I did it,” Mac Neil said. “I’ve been learning so much from each swim that I’ve been doing and I think I was able to fix all those little errors tonight.”

With Mac Neil swimming in Lane 5 and Masse in Lane 6, Masse was right there to give her teammate a congratulatory hug over the lane rope and raise the champion’s arm.

“I just said, ‘Incredible job,’ and I told her that she broke the world record because I couldn’t tell if she could see or not,” Masse, 26, said of her famously bespectacled teammate, who often squints at the scoreboard after races. “It’s always a pleasure to race next to Maggie. She continues to push me and it’s incredible to be able to be next to her when she does something amazing like that. It’s been a pleasure to get to know Maggie as a competitor but also as a really good friend. To have her racing next to me at a big meet like this, it’s really special. That’s what the sport’s all about and I’m glad that I could be a part of that moment for her.”

It’s the fourth medal (2G-2B) of these championships for Mac Neil, who won the 50-m butterfly Wednesday and contributed to bronzes in the women’s 4×100 freestyle and mixed 4×50 medley relays.

It’s Mac Neil’s 15th career medal between FINA long-course and short-course world championships, tying with Masse for most of all time by a Canadian. Mac Neil said she appreciated having Masse by her side for the big moment.

“It’s great to swim with Kylie, she’s one of my best friends so it’s just amazing,” said Mac Neil. “We’ve gotten really close over the last couple of years. We both kind of had some struggles with COVID and changing environments and stuff. So we’ve been able to work through that together and I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

High Performance Centre – Ontario teammates Javier Acevedo and Finlay Knox followed Mac Neil’s feat with silver and bronze medals in the men’s 100-m individual medley. Acevedo touched in 51.05, just 0.08 behind Italian Thomas Ceccon to lower his Canadian record. Knox also swam under Acevedo’s previous standard, turning in a best time of 51.10 for third place.

“It feels pretty incredible and to do it with two of my friends, one of them being one of my best friends. Finlay and I have gotten really close in the last couple years. This past fall and summer we’ve gone to concerts together, the international film festival together and just even now sharing the podium is so special. I train with the guy every day and he pushes me and I push him,” Acevedo said.

The pair were also part of the men’s 4×200-m freestyle relay that finished seventh in 6:56.02. Knox led off in a personal best 1:43.96, followed by Ruslan Gaziev (1:44.32), Ilya Kharun (1:45.51) and Acevedo (1:42.23).

In other Canadian finals, Sydney Pickrem finished 4th in the women’s 100 IM (personal best 58.26) and 6th in the 200 breast (2:19.35). Mary-Sophie Harvey of Montreal’s CAMO club was eighth in the 100 IM at 59.11.

The world short course championships continue through Sunday. Finals are being streamed live on CBC Sports digital platforms. Live streams can be watched via the free CBC Gem streaming service, at and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.

Full results: