Mac Neil, Liendo, women’s relay medals cap record-breaking world short-course championships
ABU DHABI – Maggie Mac Neil earned a second individual gold medal and helped Canada to silver in the women’s 4×100-medley relay while Joshua Liendo added a bronze to cap a record-breaking FINA World Championships (25m) for the Canadian team.
With those three medals, Canada finishes the six-day competition with a best-ever 15 medals (seven gold, six silver and two bronze) almost doubling its previous best of eight in 1999 and 2016. Canada finished second in the medal standings behind the U.S., with more medals than its previous eight world short-course championships combined.
Mac Neil was fourth at the halfway mark in the women’s 100-m butterfly final but roared back to clock a Canadian record 55.04 seconds for the win. Louise Hansson of Sweden was second in 55.10 and Claire Curzan of the U.S. third in 55.39.
“That was the most stressful race I’ve done all year,” said Mac Neil, of London, Ont., who also holds the Olympic and long-course world championship titles in the 100 fly. “I knew it was going to be a close race.”
A few minutes later, Mac Neil swam the butterfly leg in the women’s 4×100-m medley relay, helping Canada to silver in a national record 3:47.36. High Performance Centre-Ontario swimmers Kylie Masse and Sydney Pickrem preceded Mac Neil and Kayla Sanchez, also of HPC-Ontario, anchored. Sweden won the gold in 3:46.20 and China was third in 3:47.41.
“I was weirdly calm,” said Sanchez, about her freestyle leg. “I knew to stay relaxed in the first 50 and if it came down to the last bit, I knew I would have something. I saw in the last 25 metres I would have to fight for it. I was happy to see the result and do well for my teammates.”
Katerine Savard of Montreal’s Club CAMO and Summer McIntosh of HPC-Ontario swam in the preliminaries and will also receive a medal.
Masse added to her record as the most decorated Canadian at the FINA World Championships (long-course and short-course) with 11 career medals.
In the men’s 100-m freestyle, Liendo clocked a personal best 45.82 seconds for the bronze, his first sub 46 second swim. Alessandro Miressi of Italy took the gold in 45.57 and Ryan Held of the U.S. was third in 45.63.
“I’m still trying to process everything,” said Liendo, 19, with three medals at these championships. “The big thing for me coming into this meet was just learning but I’m already up there with the big boys. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m excited for the future.”
Tessa Cieplucha of Georgetown, Ont., was sixth in the women’s 200-m breaststroke in a personal best 2:19.99. Emily Escobedo of the U.S. was the winner in 2:17.85, Evgenila Chikunova of the Russian Swimming Federation was second in 2:17.88 and Molly Renshaw of Britain third in 2:17.96.
“It was my best time by over a second and my first time under 2:20 so I’m happy with that,” said Cieplucha, the 400-m individual medley champion on day one. “I’m still learning this race. I tried to push the front end a bit more.”
Canada was sixth in the women’s 4×50-m freestyle relay in 1:35.87 with Sanchez, Mac Neil, Savard and Rebecca Smith of the University of Calgary. The U.S. was first in 1:34.22, Sweden second in 1:34.54 and the Netherlands third in 1:34.89.
John Atkinson, director of high performance and national coach for Swimming Canada, says all the team and individual records for Canada at the short course worlds are too long to list.
“From Day 1 to Day 6 we were competitive through the whole event,” he said. “That’s down to the work ethic and the professionalism of our athletes, coaches, and of our support staff, working every minute in the prelims and finals to get the best support for the athletes. The athletes have had a fantastic set of performances here and it sets everybody up for what comes in 2022 with the major Games and championships we have coming up.”
The team followed the required COVID-19 risk mitigation protocols throughout the competition in the hotel, at meals, on buses and in the venue, including regular PCR tests, social distancing, masking and hand sanitizing. Team Canada also minimized contacts outside the team.
National Team Physician Dr. Steve Keeler and the senior management staff worked with FINA and the organizing committee and provided ongoing messaging to the team as updates and information became available. All team members tested negative for COVID-19 as part of their final pre-travel protocols.
“Everyone on the team did a great job of handling everything while in Abu Dhabi,” Keeler said.
Atkinson said Swimming Canada will continue to monitor the ongoing developments in response to the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.
“We recognize that the Government of Canada has put in place new restrictions regarding non-essential travel and that this may affect activities such as training camps. We encourage all clubs, swimmers, coaches, officials and volunteers to follow all relevant guidelines, and be proactive in planning ahead as there may be stricter protocols around training, and/or some competitions could be affected. We also understand clubs will work with their provincial sections regarding specific regulations in their provinces,” Atkinson said.
“Swimming Canada continues to plan for 2022. Plans are in place for Trials in April and beyond, and we will continue to adapt as necessary. We will continue to review all of our plans and activities taking into consideration all the relevant medical advice and travel restrictions, and will provide an update regarding our 2022 plans in the New Year.”
Nine women and three men, all of whom represented Canada at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, competed at the six-day event.
The next short course worlds are set for December 17-22, 2022, in Kazan, Russia.
Full results: https://www.omegatiming.com/2021/15th-fina-world-swimming-championships-25m-live-results
Crédit photo: Natation Canada/Simone Castrovillari: https://swimmingcanada-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/mrodrigue_swimming_ca/Ervt0o5RD0BKhGIaFquc5ZAB8qFD3R59KMTc9_aRKQp67g?e=cxk3V