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MELBOURNE, Australia – Maggie Mac Neil set her second world record of the week and Kylie Masse extended her incredible streak of individual medals on the final night of FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne, Australia.
Mac Neil and Masse won two of five medals for Canada Sunday to bring the week’s tally to 14, the country’s second-best showing in history, just one short of last year’s effort in Abu Dhabi.
Mac Neil swam the fastest ever women’s 100-m butterfly, going 54.05 to take more than half a second off American Kelsi Dahlia’s previous mark of 54.59. Torri Huske of Team USA was second in 54.75, followed by Sweden’s Louise Hansson (54.87). Katerine Savard of Montreal’s CAMO club was eighth in 56.87.
Mac Neil had been eyeing the world short-course mark since lowering her Canadian record to 54.78 at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Toronto at the end of October.
“I’m really happy with that. I was really close in Toronto so I was definitely aiming for that tonight. I’m just kind of trying to improve things as I go along for finals, so I’m really pleased with that. To make that my last individual swim of 2022 is so great,” said the 22-year-old London Aquatic Club product.
Just over half an hour later, Masse captured the individual medal that had eluded her all week. Masse overcame China’s Xuwei Peng to move into third at the halfway mark and held off a late charge from teammate Ingrid Wilm for a gutsy bronze in a Canadian record 2:01.26. Australian Kaylee McKeown delighted the friendly crowd with a winning time of 1:59.26, followed by American Claire Curzan. Wilm, who swims for Calgary’s Cascade Swim Club, was fourth in a personal best 2:01.78.
“I’ve been trying not to be too hard on myself but always as an athlete I feel like you have that competitive nature within you to want to always be better and want to be on top of the podium. I tried to keep things in perspective this week,” said Masse.
The 26-year-old from La Salle, Ont., helped the 4×50-m mixed relay to bronze on Day 2 but individually settled for sixth in the 100 and fourth in the 50.
“I know that coming into this last day having my toughest event mentally to wrap your head around and physically on the last day of a long meet, to put together a good 200 was going to be a challenge. But I just tried to rely on my training that I’ve done and just continue to believe in myself to put together a good race. It’s great to have Ingrid up there fourth in the 200 as well, she had a great swim,” she said.
Masse has now won an individual medal at every individual championships and Games at which she has competed since 2015 – 12 straight.
“It means a lot to me and I think that’s something that I don’t often put in perspective until a meet like this, but it is good to kind of remind myself to have that confidence and continue to believe in myself,” Masse said.
She also received a relay bronze as a heat swimmer for the women’s 4×100-m medley relay. Wilm (personal best 55.36), Sydney Pickrem (1:04.42), Mac Neil (54.59) and Taylor Ruck (51.85) combined for a Canadian record 3:46.22. That was more than a second faster than last year’s silver-medal time, but not enough to best Team USA, who set a world record 3:44.35, or the second-place Australians (3:44.92). In addition to Masse, fellow prelim swimmers Rachel Nicol, Savard and Rebecca Smith also earn medals.
Mac Neil, with three individual gold medals, two world records, and three relay bronzes, was named Best Female Swimmer of the meet.
“It means so much. There were so many incredible swims and records broken this week but to end 2022 on such a high note is amazing,” Mac Neil said.
She also pointed out the breakthrough of the men’s team, who accounted for four of Canada’s medals.
“The team overall, especially the men, have accomplished so much this week and I can’t wait to see what they do in the new year,” Mac Neil said.
Fittingly, the pair of all-time greats Mac Neil and Masse are tied atop Canada’s all-time FINA medal table with 17 each between long-course and short-course championships.
Canada had two other individual medals on the night. Ilya Kharun captured men’s 100-m butterfly silver in Canadian and world junior record 49.03, behind only South African legend Chad le Clos (48.59).
“It’s awesome, it’s a very great feeling. The time was just amazing, I’m really proud of it,” said the Montreal native, swimming in his first meet for the senior national team. “I’m just trying to learn from my teammates, trying to keep on moving and doing my best.”
Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., rounded out the medals with her second straight silver in the women’s 200-m freestyle. Her time of 1:52.24 was the exact same time she earned silver with last year in Abu Dhabi. Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong won in 1:51.65. The incredibly close race saw Smith out-touch Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands by just 0.04, and just 0.64 separated second from seventh-place finisher Ruck (1:52.88).
“I’m so thrilled with that swim. This is my best event and having it on Day 6 is a little tough mentally just to keep my composure but I had so many great teammates around me to help me and encourage me all week. I’m so happy with that result,” said the 22-year-old University of Calgary nursing student.
“It was great to have our second-best ever world short-course championships. We had a really strong performance across the team, with 30 finals, which is our most ever,” said Team Leader Iain McDonald. “It’s a really strong team effort from our swimmers from start to finish, supported by our coaches and support staff.”
“Consistency of performance at major championships and Games is what the team are now showing,” added High Performance Director John Atkinson, who served in a chef de mission role supporting the team. “That’s testament to the work the swimmers have done with their home coaches, team coaches and all the team staff. Now we’ll use this as a platform to build into 2023 with the FINA World Championships and Pan Am Games. All of this is possible because of the support we get from Own the Podium, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee.”
Canada’s top swimmers will be back in action to compete for spots on next year’s national team at the 2023 Bell Canadian Swimming Trials March 28-April 2 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
Full results: