BARCELONA – Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C., won a bronze medal in women’s 200-metre backstroke Saturday at FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
Caldwell swam a new Canadian record of 2:06.80, lowering the national mark for the third time in about 32 hours. American Missy Franklin was the winner, setting a world championships record of 2:04.76, while Australia’s Belinda Hocking out-touched Caldwell in 2:06.66 for silver.
“I was feeling really good. I was feeling fit, I was feeling good in the water and my backstroke was feeling great. I just went with it and once I went the 2:07 (Friday morning) I had the confidence to keep going, which was great. I was competitive with the field and I felt like I could be right in there,” Caldwell said shortly after the medal ceremony. “It’s pretty exciting. I don’t know if it’s quite sunk in yet actually but it’s pretty cool to be up there and the whole crowd and stuff.”
“It’s a big step. Considering where she came from last year, she kind of stubbed her toe and was 18th at the Olympics and we kind of felt she had a little bit more in her there last year,” said Team Canada Head Coach Randy Bennett, Caldwell’s coach at the Victoria Academy of Swimming. “To her credit she put her head down and she worked really hard all year.”
Swimming has now won half of Canada’s six medals at the worlds, which also feature diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and a new high diving event. Eric Hedlin won a silver in the men’s 5-km open water race last week, while fellow Victorian Ryan Cochrane pocketed bronze in men’s 800-m freestyle Wednesday. Cochrane goes for more hardware in the 1,500-m final as the championships come to a close Sunday.
Caldwell was one of two Canadians in the 200-m backstroke final, as Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., finished seventh in 2:10.46.
Canada has qualified for 10 finals in the pool, missing two others by the slimmest of margins. Audrey Lacroix of Pont-Rouge, Que., was just 0.05 short of making the 200-m butterfly final on Wednesday.
Winnipeg’s Chantal van Landeghem joined Lacroix in the near-miss club Saturday, coming 0.05 from advancing to the women’s 50-m freestyle final. Van Landeghem’s time of 24.96, just off the personal best of 24.89 she set in her morning heat, put her in ninth place.
“I thought it was really positive,” Bennett said. “She came back from Trials to now and has made significant improvement. She seems more poised and she’s done some good stuff on the relay splits so I’m quite pleased with the progress.”
Canadian record holder Victoria Poon of Montreal swam in the same 50-m freestyle semi, coming 16th in 25.42.
“Ten finals is what we set as a goal and we still have some more shots tomorrow,” Bennett said.
Canada has sent a 34-member team (17 men, 17 women) to the world championships, which wrap up Sunday. Swimming Canada’s broadcast partner Sportsnet is airing a one-hour highlight show all eight days of the championships.
“They’re all standing up and competing at the level we’ve asked them to – and now we expect them to,” he said. “We still have some swims and the message to the team is that we need to swim 16 sessions – so 14 down, two to go. We have important swims tomorrow morning, that’s 15, and we have important swims tomorrow night, that’s 16. We had pretty good energy on Day 1 and if we can finish the meet off with the same sort of energy, then that’s the beginnings of the right look to the team.”