Mac Neil takes 50 fly gold as Canada triples medal total
MELBOURNE, Australia – Maggie Mac Neil didn’t realize right away that she had won another world championship title.
Mac Neil’s 50-m butterfly swim of 24.64 was the highlight for Canada on Day 2 of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne, Australia. But the 22-year-old from London, Ont., thought she had been out-touched by Torri Huske until the American informed her the pair had actually tied for gold.
“It took some time to react and figure out what’s going on. First, I’m like blind,” joked Mac Neil, who famously squinted at the scoreboard after becoming Olympic 100-m butterfly champion in one of the most memorable moments from last year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“I couldn’t really see around my block but then Torri was like, ‘We tied!’ And I was like, ‘Oh, really?’ ”
Mac Neil was eighth at the turn but yet again made up the ground with her trademark underwater prowess off the wall and charged back for the gold in Canadian record time.
“I thought I went out faster but it’s fine,” Mac Neil said. “Overall it’s pretty good. A best time and a Canadian record, I’m pretty happy with that.”
In other finals Wednesday, the women’s 4×200-m freestyle relay captured silver, while Ingrid Wilm and the mixed 4×50-m medley relay added bronze medals to bring Canada’s two-day total to six (1G-1S-4B)
Red Deer, Alta., native Rebecca Smith of University of Calgary Swim Club got the 4×200 relay started with a national record 1:52.15 to put Canada in front. Katerine Savard followed in 1:54.78 to hold on to second place, followed by CAMO teammate Mary-Sophie Harvey, who went 1:54.81, leaving Canada in third. Kelowna, B.C., native Taylor Ruck then made up more than two seconds on American Leah Smith, delivering a 1:52.73 split to give Canada silver in 7:34.47, just 0.23 seconds ahead of Team USA. Australia won in a world record 7:30.87 to cap a big night for the home team.
“Relays are so exciting and to swim for these girls, it just gets me all the more amped up. It was so much fun and I’m so proud of how everyone did,” said Smith, who has now delivered three personal bests in relay leadoff legs here after helping Canada to bronze in Tuesday’s 4×100 free relay. “I came into this meet with no expectations and I think that’s just really been helping me.”
Ruck went out in 53.74, the second-fastest front 100 of all competitors, then held on.
“I went out a bit fast as I usually do, but I just knew I needed to hold on so that was my main focus on that last 100,” Ruck said as she prepared to receive her medal. “It hurt so bad. It’s taken me a good 10 minutes to get back to feeling normal now.”
Mac Neil’s gold wasn’t the only tie Wednesday. Earlier in the night, Wilm touched the wall in 55.74 to tie American Claire Curzan for third in the women’s 100-m backstroke.
It’s the first major individual medal for the 24-year-old, who swims for Calgary’s Cascade Swim Club.
Australians Kaylee McKeown (55.49) and Mollie O’Callaghan (55.62) took the first two spots to the delight of the home crowd. The deep field also included defending champion Louise Hansson of Sweden and multiple international medallist Kira Toussaint of the Netherlands. Wilm’s semifinal time of 55.92 had earned her second seed and Lane 5 swimming between O’Callaghan and Hansson.
“I’m happy I went a faster time than semis. That’s an incredibly fast field so I went in there with no expectations,” Wilm said.
Kylie Masse of La Salle, Ont., who earned silver at last year’s championships, finished sixth in 56.18.
In the 4×50-m mixed medley relay, the team of Masse, Javier Acevedo, Ilya Kharun and Mac Neil took bronze in a Canadian record 1:36.93. That was more than two seconds faster than the foursome that finished fifth at the 2016 edition of this event in Windsor, Ont. It initially appeared Canada was fifth here as well, but both Germany and the Netherlands were disqualified.
“We were all headed to the warm-down pool and we’re heading to our team area and then all of a sudden we see one team gets DQ’d then another. So it was kind of a rollercoaster of emotions. It was super fun though and we all were excited,” said Acevedo, a two-time Olympian who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “I’m just really happy with how we all stepped up, and we got a little lucky as well.”
Team USA won in 1:35.15, taking more than a second off the world record. Italy was second in 1:36.01.
Heat swimmers Wilm and Smith will also receive medals.
In other evening swims, Ruck advanced through the 100-m freestyle with a time of 52.27 in her semifinal, good for the eighth and final spot in Thursday’s deciding race.
Pickrem finished 12th in the women’s 100-m breaststroke with a semifinal time of 1:05.08 after qualifying with a personal best 1:04.73 in her morning heat.
The six-day 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.
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