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MELBOURNE, Australia – Two Canadians took two steps towards repeating a 1-2 punch at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m).

Maggie Mac Neil and Kylie Masse were among six Canadians to advance through semifinals Thursday in Melbourne, Australia. Mac Neil and Masse, who took gold and silver in women’s 50-m backstroke at last year’s championships in Abu Dhabi, sit second and fourth after semifinals.

Mac Neil’s time of 25.64 was behind only American Claire Curzan (25.60), with Mollie O’Callaghan of the host Australians third at 25.69, and Masse grabbing the fourth seed at 25.97. Returning bronze medallist Louise Hansson of Sweden sits fifth at 25.99.

“Last year was more about that just being my fun event,” said Mac Neil.

The London Aquatic Club product is known more for her butterfly accomplishments, but set the 50 back world record of 25.27 to win in Abu Dhabi.

“There’s definitely more pressure now I have a world record associated with it, but I’m really pleased with that. There are a lot of things I did wrong this morning, so I was able to fix a couple of them and definitely there’s more to fix for tomorrow. I’m just trying to focus on having fun and enjoying it and try not to put pressure on myself.”

Masse, 26, is the reigning world long-course champion in the non-Olympic distance.

“It’s great to be able to swim with Maggie and for both of us to advance to the final. I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” the La Salle, Ont., native said. “I would say (the 50) has definitely become more competitive and for me it’s something that I want to put a lot more pressure and value on now. At the same time, it also is a 50 and so many things can happen so I try and just have fun with it. It’s been nice to be able to learn a lot about my stroke and my speed, and to work through that both in long course and in short course.”

Two more pairs of Canadians advanced in 100-m individual medley events.

On the men’s side, High Performance Centre – Ontario teammates Javier Acevedo and Finlay Knox both moved through semifinals. Acevedo sits third heading into Friday’s final at 51.46, behind Americans Michael Andrew (51.40) and Shaine Casas (51.42). Knox set a personal best 51.64 to advance in sixth. That’s faster than his fifth-place time from last year, which was then a Canadian record. Acevedo, 24, now holds the record after his 51.38 at last month’s FINA World Cup stop in Indianapolis, the third time the record has changed hands between the two friends.

“It’s pretty fun in training and – mostly me – but the trash talking,” said Acevedo, who missed advancing in both his individual events Tuesday. “I saw him in Abu Dhabi get it after I got it in (International Swimming League). Then I got it in Indy, now it will come down to tomorrow for another year. We’ll see what happens but no matter what it’s always just good to race teammates and it’s nice for me to rebound from what was kind of a disaster Day 1 for me.”

Knox, 21, is feeling confident after capturing 200-m IM bronze on Day 1, his first major individual medal.

“A year and a half on the national team and I haven’t really felt like I belonged there,” said the native of Okotoks, Alta. “Now stepping up and getting on the podium like how the girls are doing, it’s kind of like, ‘All right, I have the experience, I have what it takes.’ Now I have the results to kind of show myself I do belong here and I’m just building off of that and using that as confidence going into every race knowing that I have the ability to out-touch these big names in the sport.”

Knox pointed out that Jake Tapp’s record (52.62) in the event had stood for 10 years before he broke through with a 52.36 in the 2020 ISL season.

“Now it’s down to a 51.3, so we’ve dropped (almost) a second and a half in the past two years. I think that just shows how when two people are going after something they really push each other. Tomorrow night is going to be a fun battle, not only between me and him, but the rest of the field. I would say it’s pretty wide open. I think anyone can get in there and get their hand on the wall, so it’s a battle.”

On the women’s side, Sydney Pickrem (3rd, 58.05) and Mary-Sophie Harvey (7th, 59.13) also both advanced.

“Time-wise it’s not super good,” said Harvey, the 23-year-old from Montreal’s CAMO club, who already has relay silver and bronze to her name here. “We’re on Day 3 and I’ve had a lot of races, so I’m just excited to sleep in tomorrow. I’ll just relax and have a good sleep because yesterday after the 4×200 (silver) I think I only slept for like five hours in total. I got the job done and it’s going to be fine tomorrow.”

Acevedo also lowered his Canadian 50-m backstroke record twice Thursday.

He touched the wall in 23.05 in his semifinal, 0.05 seconds faster than his morning time to tie for eighth. He declined a three-way swim-off to focus on the 100 IM final.

In other Thursday action, Kelowna, B.C., native Taylor Ruck finished sixth in the women’s 100-m freestyle in a personal best 52.08.

“I was coming in eighth so I can only go up was my mentality. I’m happy I did that and I had a blast,” said Ruck, 22.

Canada’s has six medals (1G-1S-4B) at the halfway point of the six-day meet at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

The world short course championships continue through Sunday. Finals are being streamed live on CBC Sports digital platforms. Live streams can be watched via the free CBC Gem streaming service, at cbcsports.ca and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.

Full results: https://www.omegatiming.com/2022/16th-fina-world-swimming-championships-25m-live-results

Nathan White
Senior manager, Communications, Swimming Canada
Gestionnaire supérieur des communications, Natation Canada
t. +1 613-260-1348 x2002 | m. +1 613-866-7946 | nwhite@swimming.ca