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Swimming Canada – By Jim Morris

VANCOUVER – Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak and Commonwealth Games medallist Markus Thormeyer both set meet records while members of the Canadian junior team showed no fear competing against the veterans in Friday’s opening night at the 55th annual Mel Zajac Jr. International Swim Meet.

Junior team members, part of the National Development Team Program, won two individual medals plus reached the podium in the men’s and women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay.

Kyla Leibel, 16, of Red Deer, Alta., swam a personal best time of two minutes, 01.48 seconds to finish second in the 200-m freestyle. She also was part of the women’s 4×100-m relay team that finished second in 3:48.30.

Bailey Herbert, 15, of Langley, B.C., swam two personal bests.  She was second in the 100-metre breaststroke in 1:09.11. Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., won the race in 1:08.88.

Hebert also was fourth in the 400-m IM in 4:50.97.

The men’s relay was third in 3:25.90.

Ken McKinnon, Swimming Canada’s national development coach, was pleased with the results. A group of 16 junior swimmers participated in a week-long National Development Team Program training camp prior to the meet.

“I’m pretty happy with their day,” said McKinnon. “This was a six-day training camp with one day to rest before the meet. They are tired, they are sore, they are hurting, and they are lifting.

“We are really happy with their lift.”

Leibel, who swims for the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club, said the camp improved her performance.
“We really worked on the technical side of the race, making my stroke more efficient,” she said. “That really helped.”
Oleksiak, who swims for the Toronto Swim Club, won the 50-m butterfly in 26.59 seconds. That broke the old meet record of 26.64 set by American Dana Vollmer in 2010.

Thormeyer, of the High Performance Centre – Vancouver, won the 200-m backstroke in 1:58.14. That broke the record of 1:.59.33 set by American Clark Beach in the morning preliminaries. Beach was second in the final.

“When he set it this morning (I knew) if I was going to win I would have to break that record,” said Thormeyer, who won bronze in the 100-m backstroke at the  Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“I won this event last year and this year there was more a lot more competition, but I didn’t want to let that get in the way.”

Oleksiak said swimming a strong 200-m final earlier in the night propelled her in the butterfly. Oleksiak won the B final in the freestyle event in 1:58.98, which was faster than the A final winning time.

“Setting up the 200 well really motivated me heading into the 50,” she said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”

Mackenzie Padington, of the High Performance Centre – Victoria, made two trips to the podium. She won the 200-m freestyle in 1:59.09 then barely had time to catch her breath before placing second in the 400-IM in 4:45.68.

Padington liked the competitive edge shown by Leibel and the other junior swimmers.

“Seeing all these swimmers training so hard it’s really showing in the pool,” she said. “They are all being gusty and attacking each race. It makes Canada’s swimming in the future a lot brighter.”

This year’s Zajac meet, which ends Sunday, has attracted 615 swimmers to the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre. Full results can be found at

In total five meet records feel Friday.

U.S. Olympic gold medallist Caeleb Dressel won the 50-m fly in 23.69 seconds, breaking the old mark of 24.45 set in 2017 by American Dillion Virva. He also won the men’s 200-m freestyle in 1:48.73.

American Ryan Lochte shattered the record in the 400-m IM, finishing in 4:15.80. That shaved over four seconds off the old mark set by former Canadian national team member Keith Beavers in 2008.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Lochte, who has won 12 Olympics medals.  “I’m a little beat up but that time right there is a solid swim. I’m headed in the right direction.”

Isabelle Stadden of the U.S. junior team won the 200-m backstroke in a meet record 2:08.37. That broke the old mark of 2:09.34 was set by Australia’s Meagan Nay in May 2012.