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Canada dives into worlds with relay bronze

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DOHA, Qatar – Canada took bronze in the women’s 4×100-m freestyle relay and two other swimmers earned themselves medal opportunities Sunday at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

The team of Rebecca Smith, Sarah Fournier, Katerine Savard and Taylor Ruck turned in a time of 3:37.95 to start Canada off with a medal on Day 1 of the eight-day championships.

Ruck jumped in the water with Canada sitting fifth and charged down competitors from Poland and Italy to earn the medal for Canada. The Netherlands won in 3:36.61, followed by Australia in 3:36.93.

“Watching my teammates get in there and race hypes me up every time. Usually I don’t go last so going last gave me a bit of that, which the coaches were planning on happening. I’m just so grateful again to share this medal with them,” Ruck said.

Ruck and Smith now have seven career medals at long-course worlds, tied for fifth all-time among Canadian women and sixth overall. Meanwhile it’s a first career medal for Fournier, a 27-year-old worlds rookie, and morning heat swimmer Ella Jansen.

“I think no one was expecting us to win a medal tonight. I think we did a really good job. We have Trials in May so we’re all training really hard for that,” added Savard, who earned her career third medal at her Canadian record seventh championships. “We all have a chance to be part of the (Olympic) team and we’re going to work really hard to help Canada win another medal this summer.”

Earlier in the session Sydney Pickrem and Ashley McMillan earned themselves a medal opportunity in the women’s 200-m individual medley. Pickrem advanced in second position with a 2:08.76, just .15 off her personal best.

“I’m happy with that. I think I needed to feel a little bit of that pain today, but hopefully get a better crack tomorrow,” said Pickrem, working back from mental health struggles that caused her to miss last year’s worlds.

“It’s crazy how many times I’ve gone 2:08, 2:09 but I’ve been in different stages of my life. Just me as a person, I’ve been so different. I feel really confident where I’m at as a human and as a swimmer. So, it’s good to have it all kind of come into place a little bit,” Pickrem said.

“I’m so grateful to be here and so excited to be in the final. It’s another opportunity to clean things up,” added the 19-year-old McMillan, who is making her worlds debut.

“I was definitely really nervous but I just kept reminding myself I worked really hard to be here,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time watching this meet and wanting to be here so badly, so it’s just easier to manage things when you put them in perspective.”

In other semifinal action, Finlay Knox swam a Canadian record 23.25 to finish tied for 9th in his 50-m butterfly semifinal. It was the second personal best of the day for Knox, who was also part of the men’s 4×100-m freestyle relay that finished 11th in the morning heats. His main focus will be on the 200-m individual medley Wednesday.

“The 50 fly for me is just to prep for the 200 IM so no expectations, just went in there and had some fun,” said Knox, who was just .01 behind eight-place finisher Inchul Baek of Korea.

“Obviously a little bitter that I came ninth but the goal wasn’t the 50 fly. We’re just coming in, having some fun with the 50 and getting prepped for the rest of the week, so I’m very happy,” said the 23-year-old Olympian from Okotoks, Alta., who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver.

Savard went 58.73 in her women’s 100-m butterfly semifinal to finish 12th.

Both relays sit well within the Top 16 times from this year’s and last year’s worlds and are expected to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Relay qualification will be confirmed at a later date with World Aquatics and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

James Dergousoff of the High Performance Centre – Vancouver swam a personal best 1:00.77 in his 100-m breaststroke heat to finish 23rd.

More than 2,600 athletes representing 201 countries and the World Aquatics Refugee Team are in Doha to compete in 75 medal events across six aquatic sports.

Live streaming and extensive coverage will run through Sunday on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. See the full streaming and broadcast schedule here.

Fans can also follow along on Instagram and X through @CBCOlympics and @SwimmingCanada for highlights throughout the competition.

Full team Canada roster.

Pool swimming schedule and entries.