Kylie Masse and Penny Oleksiak to lead Canadian swim team in Tokyo
Trials were canceled in 2020 with the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s April trials were postponed from May and back to June as Ontario grappled with COVID-19.
“I think we were the last great swimming nation to host our official trials so our athletes and coaches watched the rest of the world compete and post the times,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson, Thursday on a conference call.
“Our athletes have certainly been up to the task over the past five days.”
For the majority of the Canadian team, the trials were their first real races in a 50-meter pool, or long pool, in more than a year and a half due to the pandemic.
“Without running that long I think it was really exciting to see what we could finally do in a race again and see how our training came together in our races,” said Masse.
“Running this last week definitely gave me a lot more confidence. “
The Canadians won six swimming medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, tied with track and field athletes.
Oleksiak, 16, led the charge in the Rio pool with a gold in the freestyle and a silver in the butterfly. She also anchored the free relay teams to two bronze medals.
Canada went on to win eight medals in the pool and another in open water swimming at the 2019 world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Masse, of LaSalle, Ont., Has been a two-time world champion in the 100-meter backstroke since winning bronze in Rio. Mac Neil of London, Ont., Is the reigning 100-meter butterfly world champion.
Atkinson didn’t set strict medal or finals goals for Tokyo.
“We’re going to be ready to improve and see every athlete who goes out there post faster times than they did in qualifying,” he said. “Having said that, we’re not just going to participate.
“We’re going there to challenge the medals, but we don’t set any specific targets for that. “
Now 21, Oleksiak has qualified for the 100m and 200m freestyle and is expected to be a key cog in three women’s relays.
Brent Hayden came out of retirement to form his fourth Olympic team. The 37-year-old from Mission, BC, won Olympic bronze in the men’s 100 freestyle in London in 2012.
Katerine Savard, of Pont-Rouge, Que., Will compete in her third Games.
Summer McIntosh, 14, of Toronto, experienced small group trials, beating Oleksiak in the 200-meter freestyle as well as winning the 800-meter freestyle to earn a spot on the Olympic team.
Mac Neil will make his Olympic debut in Tokyo, as will McIntosh, Finlay Knox of Okotoks, Alta., Josh Liendo of Toronto and open water swimmers Kate Sanderson of Toronto and Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby, BC.
The two open water swimmers qualified via races in Portugal while the pool trials took place in Toronto. They hadn’t competed in open water since the world championship almost two years ago.
“Our athletes have been really resilient,” said Atkinson. “I’m delighted with what they did this week and I think we’re in a pretty good position.
Returning Rio veterans include Javier Acevedo of Toronto, Taylor Ruck and Kierra Smith of Kelowna, BC, Markus Thormeyer of Delta, BC, and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla.
The swim team will meet on July 3 in Vancouver for a camp before heading to Tokyo on July 16.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 24, 2021.
The Canadian Press