BUDAPEST, Hungary – Kylie Masse and Team Canada continued to be right in the middle of historically fast swimming Friday at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
The 21-year-old from Windsor, Ont., advanced through the women’s 200-m backstroke semifinals in second with a Canadian record time of two minutes, 5.97 seconds. Only Australian Emily Seebohm, the defending world champion, was faster (2:05.81). Both times would have been good for gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I could see that it was close. I saw the scoreboard at one point. I knew it was going to be a tight finish but I did the best I could to get my hand the wall as fast as possible,” Masse said.
It’s the fifth national mark of the week for Masse, who trains at the University of Toronto. That includes the world record of 58.10 in the 100-m back Tuesday. In addition to that gold, she helped the 4×100-m mixed medley relay to bronze in a Canadian record 3:41.25 Wednesday.
Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C., will join Masse in Saturday’s final after advancing in eighth at 2:07.64, just .10 off her bronze-medal time from Rio. Caldwell’s 2:06.80 from her Barcelona 2013 world championships medal was the previous national record.
The 26-year-old went out hard in her the first semifinal next to Hungarian favourite Katinka Hosszu, and held the lead at the 100-m and 150-m turns. The Rio silver medallist, fueled by the Duna Arena crowd, caught Caldwell on the last length to take fourth, while Caldwell touched fifth. Hosszu and Caldwell then had to await the results of the second semi to find out they’d advanced in seventh and eighth.
“I know I have to take it to Katinka on the way out, that’s the only way to beat her,” said Caldwell, who trains at the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria. “It definitely hurt a bit coming home. I couldn’t see any of the other girls on the other side of her.”
Masse, swimming at her first long-course worlds, said she’s looking forward to swimming alongside the veteran Caldwell.
“Hilary is an amazing friend and extremely talented backstroker and someone I look up to a lot,” Masse said. “I know she’s going to have a good final.”
Meanwhile, Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak moved into her third individual final of the week, breaking her Canadian record in the 50-m butterfly. Her time of 25.66 moved her through in fourth.
“It felt pretty good,” said Oleksiak, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “I think I have to be more playful and fun going into the 50 fly. All my other events I take super seriously and I have a whole plan going into them, but this one is literally put your head down and try to get to the wall first.”
Canada has two medals at the championships, and has now qualified for 13 finals.
“It’s really good we’re continuing to progress swimmers from heats to semis to finals,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “That’s what the name of the game is now through the back end of the meet. Keep working the same process, getting people to progress, and once they get into a final they have a chance to race and see where it takes them.”
The 50 fly was the second swim of the night for the 17-year-old quadruple Olympic medallist, who was also part of Wednesday’s mixed medley bronze. She took sixth in the 100-m freestyle to open the night, with a time of 52.94.
Her co-Olympic champion in the event, Simone Manuel of Team USA, took the gold in an Americas record 52.27, charging down world-record holder Sarah Sjostrom, who settled for silver in 52.31. Denmark’s Pernille Blume took bronze in 52.69.
Oleksiak’s Rio gold-medal time of 52.70, still the world junior record, would have been fourth.
“It hurt a lot the last 20 metres but overall it was a pretty good race,” Oleksiak said. “I’ve had kind of a difficult year so I think being able to get around my best was pretty good.”
Canada’s other finalist on the night was Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., who finished fifth in the women’s 200-m breaststroke. Although she set a personal best of 2:22.23, she wasn’t satisfied with the result, which left her just .30 short of China’s Jinglin Shi for the bronze.
“I’m not happy with that,” said Smith, 23. “It’s great to get a best time though, I haven’t gotten one since 2015 in that event. I can’t tell you how bad I wanted a medal and I’m not sure what I could improve on looking back at it right now. I know I have a lot of great people working with me and we can get better next year.”
Russia’s Yuliya Efimova won in 2:19.64, followed by Bethany Galat of Team USA at 2:21.77.
“The standard of swimming at the world championships has been really fast,” Atkinson said. “A lot of events have progressed quite significantly from Rio and our athletes are stepping up for the challenge and doing a great job.”