Team Canada set for world short-course championships Down Under
MELBOURNE, Australia – Canada is ready to take on the world as the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) begin Tuesday in Melbourne, Australia (Monday p.m. in Canadian time zones).
Canada has 17 swimmers – six men and 11 women – set to represent the country at the world short-course championships. The team gathered in the swimming hotbed Thursday and has been making final preparations at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. Swimmers have access to two indoor training pools adjacent to the covered outdoor competition pool, which has a seating capacity of 3,000.
“We’ve been super excited to arrive here, train and do our preparation in one of the best facilities in the world,” said Head Coach Ryan Mallette. “Australia knows swimming so we’re looking forward to a really good, really exciting crowd and racing the best in the world.”
The 2021 edition of this event was Canada’s most successful world short-course championships of all time. That team won 15 medals, seven of them gold, over the course of six days in Abu Dhabi.
All three of Canada’s individual gold medallists return, headlined by Maggie Mac Neil, who won last year’s 100-m butterfly and 50-m backstroke, the latter in world record time. Fellow returning champions Sydney Pickrem (200-m individual medley) and Tessa Cieplucha (400-m IM) will also be in action. So will Canada’s most decorated FINA swimmer of all time, Kylie Masse, holder of 14 medals between world short-course and long-course championships. Masse will be in action in her signature 100-m backstroke on Day 1.
“It’s good to be back with everybody and it’s gorgeous here,” said Cieplucha, a Markham Aquatic Club swimmer making her first visit to Melbourne. “I swam outside for practice and really felt like I was swimming in a stadium. It feels exciting to swim here and I think that will bring good things and good energy to the team.”
Pickrem will be making her return to the national team after skipping Commonwealth Games for personal reasons, as will Yuri Kisil, who sat out the Games to rest and rehabilitate a shoulder injury.
“I had a great break, I’m mentally refreshed and raring to get ready to race again,” said Kisil, who has returned to Cascade Swim Club in his hometown of Calgary. “I’m just trying to enjoy the process and the competition, see some fast racing and gain some confidence going into (next spring’s) Trials.”
Katerine Savard of Montreal’s CAMO club is another national team veteran who will swim multiple individual events and contribute to relays.
Savard joined with Mac Neil, Rebecca Smith, and Kayla Sanchez to get Canada off to a great start with gold in the women’s 4×100-m freestyle relay at last year’s championships. While Sanchez has been granted her release, Canada will have Taylor Ruck in the fold this time after she sat out last year’s championships. Ruck also declined Commonwealth Games but was part of three relay medals at the long-course FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, this summer.
“It’s fun to see everyone again. Short course worlds are always a smaller team but I feel like the team spirit is really there,” Savard said. “The Australians are really strong but we’re going to try to do our best and I think we have a good chance of podiums in the relays.”
The 16 national team veterans are joined by just one newcomer. Montreal native Ilya Kharun, 17, trains with the Sandpipers of Nevada, based in Las Vegas, where he lives with his family. Kharun is fresh off setting three Canadian short-course records at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Indianapolis last month. Kharun is expected to make his debut on Day 1 with the 50-m butterfly, and is also a likely candidate for the men’s 4×100-m freestyle relay.
“It’s great to finish the year with the FINA world short course championships with a strong team on the back of the short course World Cups this fall. It’s great to test yourself against the rest of the world,” said High Performance Director John Atkinson, who is in a Chef de Mission role supporting Team Leader Iain McDonald, Mallette and Team Manager Janice Hanan.
“We want to ensure the optimal team environment for our athletes to perform to their best. We are looking for each athlete to progress to finals and race for medals. They all know why they’re here, they’re professional and they’re focused,” Atkinson said.
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