Canada hits worlds pool with two Top 5 performances
FUKUOKA, Japan – The men’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay put Canada in strong position to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as pool swimming got underway Sunday at the World Aquatics Championships.
Canada’s team of Josh Liendo, Ruslan Gaziev, Finlay Knox and Javier Acevedo placed fifth in 3:12.05.
Australia capped an impressive day with the victory in 3:10.16 with Italy second in 3:10.49 and the U.S. third in 3:10.81. Those three medallists clinched spots in Paris 2024, while the remaining times will be ranked against the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships to decide the 13 other relay qualifiers.
‘’One year out we’re in a good place,’’ said Gaziev, an alumnus of Etobicoke Swim Club who led off in prelims with a personal best 48.38. ‘’We have a lot of room for improvement which is what I’m most excited about.’’
Knox, who replaced heat swimmer Edouard Fullum-Huot of Montreal in the final, was in unfamiliar territory as a 4×100 freestyle relay swimmer.
“A big thank you to Eddy for putting us in a solid position this morning. To get the call I was going to be on the final, I knew I had to perform,” said the native of Okotoks, Alta., who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “As a medley swimmer trying to be on this 4×1 relay I’ve got a lot of swimmers on my heels and a lot of development to go. I’m just really proud of these guys.”
All eyes were on Summer McIntosh as the 16-year-old from Toronto competed in the highly anticipated women’s 400-metre freestyle as the world record holder.
McIntosh was in a medal position until the final few strokes, clocking 3:59.94 to place fourth in a race that featured the fastest three swimmers in history.
Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia regained the world record with a blazing 3:55.38 for the gold. Defending world champion Katie Ledecky of Team USA followed in 3:58.73 and Erika Fairweather of New Zealand snuck into third in 3:59.59.
‘’Not every race can be a 10 out of 10,’’ said McIntosh, the silver medallist at last year’s worlds. ‘’I’ll use this as a learning experience heading into the next days and of course towards the Olympics.’’
McIntosh previously held the world mark at 3:56.08 set last March.
‘’The 3:55 low is insane,’’ said McIntosh, who trains with the Sarasota Sharks. ‘’Huge congrats to Ariarne. It’s really inspiring to see others push the boundaries and I’m trying to carry my momentum to see what I can do myself.’’
She’s the only Canadian under four minutes, a feat she has accomplished five times in just over 13 months.
“It shows how much I’ve been trying to push the standards,’’ she said. “All I want to do is continue to improve.’’
Australia posted four victories in five finals and two world records.
They broke the world record in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay clocking 3:27.96. The U.S. was second in 3:31.93 and China third in 3:32.40.
Canada with McIntosh, Margaret Mac Neil of London, Ont., Mary-Sophie Harvey of Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., were seventh in 3:36.62.
Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., swam in the prelims before giving way to McIntosh. Mac Neil set a personal best of 53.77 to lead off the prelim.
Ruck, a four-time Olympic medallist, gave Canada two solid swims in her first competitive races since a broken hand suffered earlier this season.
‘’I probably surprised myself,’’ Ruck said. ‘’The coaches kept reminding me that racing is what I do best. Right now, I’m just living the moment and trying to have the best time.’’
Mac Neil advances to 100-metre butterfly final
Earlier in the session, Mac Neil qualified third in the women’s 100-m butterfly semifinal in 56.78. Yufei Zhang of China was first overall at 56.40 followed by Torri Huske of Team USA in 56.76. The top eight advanced to Monday’s final.
‘’It’s always challenging the first day whether it’s the Olympics or worlds,’’ said Mac Neil, the reigning Olympic champion in the event. ‘’I’m pretty happy with all my swims today and hopefully there’s room for improvement.’’
Savard was 13th in 58.18.
Harvey ranked 11th in the women’s 200 individual medley semifinals.
‘’I’m disappointed in the 200 IM,’’ she admitted. ‘’But you know what? I’ve got to learn from it and move forward.’’
Ilya Kharun of Montreal and Liendo ranked 14th and 15th in the men’s 50-m butterfly semis. Kharun clocked 23.27 in both the prelims and semis which equalled Liendo’s national record set in April.
Wigginton sets national age group record
In the morning preliminaries, Lorne Wigginton of Calgary clocked a national age group record 4:13.75 in the men’s 400 individual medley to rank ninth, one spot short of a berth in the final.
“It hurt a lot more than I’ve ever felt before,’’ said Wigginton, 17, at least four years younger than those that advanced, including France’s Leon Marchand, who set a world record 4:02.50 to win the final. ‘’I enjoyed just being up there with those guys and getting that experience of swimming like this.’’
He has lowered his personal best by more than six seconds since this time last year.
‘’I am there now, and I think that’s a massive step towards next year being the Olympic year. I’m trying to get to that standard and I’m so much closer than I was going into it so that’s exciting.”
Collyn Gagne of Milton, Ont., was 13th in a personal best 4:16.08.
‘’It’s just about preparing for next year with Paris,’’ he said. ‘’So, any steps I can make towards the standard is good.’’
Eric Brown of Pointe-Claire, Que., set a personal best 3:50.68 in the 400-m freestyle ranking 23rd. Brown competed last week in open water events and will also race in the 800 free and 1,500 free later this week.
“It was good overall, by far my fastest prelim swim, so I can’t be upset with that at all,’’ he said. ‘’I’m happy with that and I’ll get ready for the next one now. I look forward to that 800 for sure and hopefully I’ll start dropping a few seconds.”
Ella Jansen of the High Performance Centre – Ontario came 22nd in the 400-m freestyle. James Dergousoff of Christina Lake, B.C., was 28th in the 100-m breaststroke.
Viewers can catch the action live via the free CBC Gem steaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports App for iOS and Android devices, and watch broadcast coverage on CBC TV as part of CBC Sports weekend programming throughout the competition.
CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux is in Japan poolside keeping audiences up-to-date on the latest news and posting social videos daily.
Events are being live streamed across CBC Sports digital platforms, with a live swim show hosted by Anastasia Bucsis streaming daily on CBC
Gem beginning Sunday for all final events. Finals start at 7 a.m. ET each day.
Senior manager, Communications, Swimming Canada
Gestionnaire supérieur des communications, Natation Canada
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