RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Twice was nice for Canada in the pool, as Hilary Caldwell and Dominique Bouchard advanced from the women’s 200-metre backstroke heats with relative ease on Thursday.
Caldwell (Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria / White Rock, B.C.) had the second-fastest heat time in two minutes 7.40 seconds. Bouchard (Oakville Aquatic Club / North Bay, Ont.) was seventh in 2:08.87. Resetting after his fourth-place 100-m freestyle effort on Wednesday, Santo Condorelli (Kenora, Ont.) comfortably handled swimming two heats in a hour on Thursday, advancing to Olympic semifinals in men’s 50-metre freestyle and 100-m butterfly.
All three Canadians will compete in semifinals on Thursday night, joining finalists Penny Oleksiak (HPC – Ontario / Toronto) and Kierra Smith (Liquid Lightning Swim Club / Kelowna, B.C.). Oleksiak has a middle lane in women’s 100-m freestyle, where she will vie to become the first Canadian to earn four medals a single Summer Games. Smith will compete in her first Olympic final in 200-m breaststroke.
Brittany MacLean (Etobicoke Swim Club / Etobicoke, Ont.), just hours removed from earning a relay bronze, posted an 8:26.43 800-m freestyle, falling less than a second shy of reaching the final. Spain’s Mireia Garcia swam 8:25.55 to nab the eighth and final spot.
“Brittany made the final of the 400 freestyle, and obviously last night showed real leadership within the women’s 4 x 200-m freestyle,” Swimming Canada high performance director John Atkinson said. “She’s had a big program – two 400s, three 200s, an 800. It was a great effort today but unfortunately she came up just a bit short.”
Caldwell was surpassed only by Hungary superstar Katinka Hosszú (2:06.09) in the backstroke heats. Watching her teammates succeed this week – four medals and 10 finals thus far – had the 25-year-old Caldwell champing at the bit for her first race in Rio. In a sense, Caldwell’s world championships bronze in 2013 broke a barrier for the women’s team.
“I was antsy to get racing,” Caldwell said. “”Seeing all the girls on the team swimming so well in the first five days and being on the podium, I definitely wanted to have a good race this morning.
“I WAS ANTSY TO GET RACING,” CALDWELL SAID. “”SEEING ALL THE GIRLS ON THE TEAM SWIMMING SO WELL IN THE FIRST FIVE DAYS AND BEING ON THE PODIUM, I DEFINITELY WANTED TO HAVE A GOOD RACE THIS MORNING”
“Them being on the podium seems that much more attainable. They’re so chill about it, it’s great. Have fun, take away stress.
“You get used to it [racing later in meets],” Caldwell added. “You try to get into the meet, but not be too into it, because you still got a few days. You have to stay within yourself, let it excite you but not let you get too into it.”
Condorelli (Kenora, Ont.) delivered a 21.83-second 50-m freestyle, tied for seventh-fastest heat time. The 21-year-old produced a 51.99-second butterfly, qualifying 14th. With the semifinals also on Thursday, Condorelli and his coaches face a tough strategic decision.
Yuri Kisil (HPC – Vancouver / Calgary) had a time of 22.50 in his heat, which was 35th out of the 85 entries.
On Thursday night, Oleksiak, by virtue of having the second-fastest semifinal time, will be in Lane 5 between Australia’s Cate Campbell and Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström.
Smith is in Lane 8 for the breaststroke final.
Two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane (HPC – Victoria / Victoria) has his 1,500-m freestyle heat on Friday. Cochrane claimed a bronze in the 1,500 at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, and took the silver at the 2012 Olympics.