RIO- Penny Oleksiak anchored Canada’s 4X200-m freestyle for the bronze medal and qualified second for the 100-m freestyle on Wednesday in another exciting night for Canadian swimming at the Olympic Games.
There was also an incredible finish in the men’s 100-m freestyle final with Santo Condorelli of Kenora, Ont., emerging fourth once the waters had settled.
In the women’s relay, Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Brittany MacLean of Etobicoke and Toronto’s Oleksiak earned Canada’s fourth swimming medal clocking a Canadian record seven minutes and 45.39 seconds.
‘’We were so excited,’’ Savard told CBC about the last 25 metres of the race as Oleksiak charged to the wall. ‘’We were cheering so loud for Penny and she did an amazing split.’’
The U.S. won the gold medal in 7:43.03 and Australia withstood a late charge from Oleksiak on the final length for silver in 7:44.87. The first three Canadian swimmers had set the race perfectly for Canada’s 16-year-old phenom standing third after 600-m.
‘’This experience means a lot to me,’’ said Oleksiak. ‘’I definitely want to share this experience with the other girls, it means so much to me.’’
MacLean didn’t swim in the preliminaries due to illness but returned in the evening with a solid third relay.
‘’It was a great team effort,’’ said MacLean. ‘’We are definitely proving that anything is possible for us and Penny set the tone right away from her 100-m freestyle swim and we just got pumped up and ready. It’s so cool to see the Canadian flags waving here and we know they are waving just as hard back home.’’
‘’IT WAS A GREAT TEAM EFFORT,’’ SAID MACLEAN. ‘’WE ARE DEFINITELY PROVING THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE FOR US AND PENNY SET THE TONE RIGHT AWAY FROM HER 100-M FREESTYLE SWIM AND WE JUST GOT PUMPED UP AND READY. IT’S SO COOL TO SEE THE CANADIAN FLAGS WAVING HERE AND WE KNOW THEY ARE WAVING JUST AS HARD BACK HOME.’’
Emily Overholt of West Vancouver and Kennedy Goss of Toronto swam in Canada’s sixth place prelims to qualify the team for the final and will also receive medals. They were replaced for the final by MacLean and Oleksiak.
In the men’s 100-m freestyle, Condorelli blasted out of the gates and led at the 50-m turn. Australia’s 18-year-old Kyle Chalmers took over on the second length and touched first in 47.58 with Pieter Timmers of Belgium second in 47.80 and Nathan Adrian of the U.S. third in 47.85.
Condorelli was a mere 0.03 seconds from the podium in a personal best 47.88. The 21-year-old was hoping to at least repeat Brent Hayden’s bronze medal performance from the London Games four years ago.
‘’I went out pretty fast and didn’t know I was first at the turn’’ he said. ‘’I was just living in the moment trying to go as fast as I can. It kind of sucks getting fourth by that much, certainly a medal was on my mind. But I’m just happy with everything I’ve gone through these last months and being able to stay focused and going best times when I needed to.’’
Oleksiak opened her evening with a remarkable race in the 100-m freestyle semifinals nearly topping the field. She clocked the second fastest overall lowering her Canadian record to 52.72. Cate Campbell of Australia, just outouched the Canadian and was the top qualifier for Thursday night’s final in 52.71.
Chantal Van Landeghem of Winnipeg was 10th overall and did not advance.
Kierra Smith of Kelowna grabbed the eighth and last spot for Thursday’s women’s 200-m breaststroke final. Her semifinal time was 2:22.87.
‘’I definitely wanted to get back in the 2:22’s,’’ she said. ‘’This was just five one-hundreths off my personal best from last year. I’m just so happy to be going to an Olympic final. It’s a dream come true. It gives me a lot of confidence to know I belong in the final and can race with those girls.’’
Condorelli is back in action Thursday morning with the 50-m freestyle and 100-m butterfly heats. Yuri Kisil of Calgary joins him in the 50 free.
‘’The plan right now is to swim both of them in the morning,’’ said Condorelli. ‘’And then kind of make a judgement after that to see if I do both or drop one. I’m pretty excited about the 50, I’ve never been out that fast before in my 100 so it’s a good sign for the 50.’’
For the women, MacLean swims the 800-m freestyle and Dominique Bouchard of North Bay, Ont., and Hilary Caldwelll of White Rock, B.C., are in the women’s 200-m backstroke.
The preliminaries are at noon (EDT) and the finals at 9 p.m.