Matthew Swanston of Newmarket, Ont., nearly matched his world leading time for 17-year-olds on Friday in his victory in the men’s 200-metre backstroke at the North American Challenge Cup swimming competition.

Swanston clocked two minutes and 00.58 for a decisive victory in the race, his third gold of the competition in the 17-18 age group. The time was just 0.05 seconds off the clocking that earned him a silver medal in the event at the world junior championships last month which also stands as the fastest time by a 17-year-old this season.

He is also ranked third in the world this year in the 17-18 age group.

‘’This is my fifth meet in a row so I was surprised to come so close to my time from the world juniors,’’ said Swanston, who also won his first national senior medal last month in Winnipeg. ‘’The race tonight hurt a bit but I think I swam it pretty well and I’m pleased with it. It’s been a big season for me and I’ve really improved a lot.’’

Swanston also got an extra jolt of inspiration with the start of the Olympic Games on Friday. Among the team members is his clubmate Lindsay Seeman.

‘’Lindsay and I have been training together for several years so it is a big thrill for me that she is at the Olympics,’’ said Swanston . ‘’It pumps me up to try and follow in her footsteps.’’

Meanwhile another highlight race was the women’s 200 backstroke in the 15-16 age group. Sinead Russell of Oakville, Ont., whose brother Colin is on the Olympic swim team, took the gold clocking 2:16.06. Deanna Matthews of Edmonton, the leader heading into the final length, took the silver in a personal best 2:16.22.

The times ranked Russell and Matthews second and third in Canada in the age group behind Seeman.

‘’It was a fun race,’’ said Russell. ‘’I kept in control the whole way and that allowed me to come back in the last 50. I was also pleased with my reaction off the wall on the third length. I got off my turn really fast.’’

Despite squandering the lead late in the race, Matthews was delighted with her performance.

‘’I’m very happy,’’ said Matthews who also set a provincial record. ‘’I wanted to go out strong and just hold on. On the last length I looked over and saw Sinead coming and it was just an all out battle to the finish and she got there first.’’

Competition ends Saturday

Full results at: