McCabe advances to final alongside world record


BARCELONA – Toronto’s Martha McCabe kept her medal hopes alive at FINA World Championships in Barcelona Thursday.

McCabe advanced to the final in women’s 200-metre breaststroke with a semifinal time of 2:24.68. The 24-year-old, who won bronze in the event at the 2011 world championships, will swim in the final Friday.

“I think that was a really good swim for me at this point.

It was just about hoping that I was in,” McCabe said. “Seeing that I was in the final just makes it that much better. I get one more shot and I often can build on my swims and get better and better. That’s the plan going into tomorrow night.”

McCabe wasn’t sure where she stood after finishing fifth in the first semi, which featured a world record of 2:19.11 by Rikke Pedersen of Denmark. But McCabe’s time, more than a second faster than she swam in the morning, held up for eighth position.

“I was just hoping to be in the final but at that point I’d done everything I possibly could have,” McCabe said. “I just kept going on preparing as if I made it through. It’s all about getting down into that warm-down pool just in case I did. That’s what I did and of course I kept an eye on the TV screen and when I saw that I was through I was happy and continued on in my warm-down.”

Team Canada Head Coach Randy Bennett said seeing world record swimming firsthand should be a positive influence for the young team.

“To be part of a world record swim is a great learning experience for the team,” Bennett said. “When you get to see that level of swimming it should inspire the team to greater things going forward.”

It wasn’t McCabe’s first time being in the pool for a 200-m breaststroke world record either. She swam in the same semifinal as Canadian Annamay Pierse when Pierse set the world record at the 2009 world championships, then again at the 2012 Olympic final in London when American Rebecca Soni swam an even 2:20.00 to top Pierse. McCabe finished fifth in that race.

“When we were coming down the last 50 actually, I could hear the crowd just going crazy so I actually thought during that last 50 she might be going the world record,” McCabe said. “I heard the crowd so that helped. What I always do is pretend it’s for me. I think, ‘These guys are cheering for me,’ and use that energy to just drive into the wall.”

When she won her bronze medal in Shanghai in 2011, McCabe advanced from the semifinals in 6th position. At both her past world championships, she has swam  the 200-m breaststroke progressively faster from heats to semifinals to finals.

“I was just reminded by one of the coaches that I did win my medal in one of the outside lanes, so anything can happen,” McCabe said. “Some of these girls might have swam faster times than me tonight, but sometimes doing it a third time is a challenge. I think I’ve got some experience doing that and I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to have a good swim tomorrow night so we’ll see where that puts me.”

Canada’s women’s 4×200-m freestyle relay was also in action Thursday evening. The team of Sam Cheverton, Barb Jardin, Brittany MacLean and Savannah King finished sixth with a time of 7:55.48, more than a second faster than the morning heats.

“Good swimming tonight by Martha to advance to the top 8 and the relay improved their time, which is a significant accomplishment,” Bennett said. “We’re looking forward to the next three days of competition.”

The world championships continue through Sunday. In addition to McCabe’s final Friday, Canada’s hopefuls include Noemie Thomas and Sandrine Mainville in the women’s 50-m butterfly and Sinead Russell in the women’s 200-m backstroke. Canada has sent a 34-member team (17 men, 17 women) to the world championships. Swimming Canada’s broadcast partner Sportsnet will be airing a one-hour highlight show all eight days of the championships. 

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Scott Harrigan
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