Two more medals make for Canada’s best ever worlds
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Joshua Liendo led off Canada’s record-breaking silver medal in the mixed 4×100-m freestyle relay after a bronze in the 100-m butterfly as Canada reached a best-ever nine medals in the pool at the FINA World Swimming Championships on Friday.
Canada’s previous medal high at the worlds in the pool was eight achieved at the last event in Gwangju, South Korea, in 2019. The tally now stands at two gold, four silver and three bronze for fourth in the medal standings behind USA, Australia and Italy.
Competition ends on Saturday with Canada in contention for more hardware.
‘’This puts into context what a great team it is,’’ said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s Director, High Performance and National Coach about his troops ‘’And how the coaches, athletes and staff support each other through getting the best performance for the team.’’
It took a world record swim by Australia to beat the Canadians in the mixed relay. The Aussies lowered the mark to 3:19.38 seconds with Canada following in 3:20.61, which smashed the previous national mark of 3:22.54 set in Gwangju. The U.S. was third in 3:21.09.
Swimming for Canada in the final with Liendo were Javier Acevedo of Toronto, Kayla Sanchez and Penny Oleksiak. Liendo, Sanchez and Oleksiak are all based at Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre-Ontario. The last three all went personal best relay splits.
Oleksiak snared the silver from the Americans with a powerful finish.
‘’I just had to put faith in the back half of my race,’’ said Oleksiak. ‘’For a while I’ve been working on the front and almost neglected the back. But recently I’ve got it going again. I just tried to move us up as fast as I could.’’
She is now tied with Ryan Cochrane as the most decorated Canadian swimmer at worlds with eight, all achieved in relays.
‘’I honestly didn’t even know that,’’ said Oleksiak. ‘’Being on this team is such a privilege. It’s awesome to be a part of it and accomplish things like that.’’
The 19-year-old Liendo led off the relay in his third final of the night. He opened with a fifth and Canadian record in the 50-m freestyle and won a bronze in the 100-m butterfly. He has three medals this week after a bronze in the 100 free on Wednesday.
‘’The relay was the highlight for me,’’ said Liendo, 19. ‘’The atmosphere and how the girls swam the back end. I did what I could, I was tired and it paid off well as the others stepped up and did a great job. It was a fun night.’’
‘’Just awesome swimming,’’ added Atkinson about Liendo. ‘’Every member in that relay stood up and did special splits in that relay and Penny’s 52.11 was great to see.
Acevedo has reached the 47 second range twice at these worlds in the 100 free including Friday’s relay. He kept Canada in the top three at his split.
‘’It’s good to be back,’’ he said. ‘’I’ve struggled with injuries and my fitness the last couple of years so I’m glad to be on this team again.’’
In the morning preliminaries, Acevedo swam the relay with Ruslan Gaziev, Taylor Ruck and Margaret Mac Neil. They will also receive medals.
In his second final of the night, Liendo raced to a bronze medal in the men’s 100-m butterfly in 50.97. Olympic silver medallist Kristof Milak of Hungary took the gold in 50.14 and Naoki Mizunuma of Japan was second in 50.94.
‘’I was fighting through all my races tonight but the 100 fly felt pretty good,’’ said Liendo. ‘’I swam my race.’’
Liendo is the first Canadian since Bruce Robertson’s golden swim at the inaugural worlds in 1973 to reach the podium in the men’s 100 fly.
He is also the fifth swimmer to win a medal in both the 100-m freestyle and 100-m butterfly at the same worlds. The others are Matt Biondi of the U.S. (1986), Lars Frolander of Sweden (1998 and 2001), Michael Klim Australia (1998) and Caeleb Dressel of the U.S. (2017 and 2019)
Less than an hour earlier, Liendo launched his three-final night with a fifth spot in the 50-m freestyle. He clocked a Canadian record 21.61 eclipsing his previous mark of 21.63 set in April at the world team trials.
Benjamin Proud of Great Britain won the gold in 21.32, Michael Andrew of the U.S. the silver in 21.41 and Maxime Grousset of France the bronze in 21.57.
Canada’s other finalist on the day was Kylie Masse who took fifth in the 200-m backstroke in 2:08.00. She was vying for her third medal of the competition after gold in the 50 back and silver in in the 100 back earlier this week.
Kaylee McKeown of Australia was the winner in 2:05.08, Phoebe Bacon of the U.S. second in 2:05.12 and her compatriot Rhyan White third in 2:06.96.
‘’I was just focusing on beating my times from semis and prelims,’’ said Masse of HPC-Ontario who clocked 2:09.37 in the preliminaries and 2:09.23 in the semis on Thursday.
‘’What everyone else swims is out of my control. I was focusing on myself and trying to put together a good race. I definitely died a bit at the end. I feel that’s a matter of a long week and just trying to manage it all.’’
In the morning preliminaries, Kayla Sanchez of HPC-Ontario was 13th in the women’s 50-free in 25.15 but scratched for the semis to focus on the relay.
Javier Acevedo of Toronto was 18th in the men’s 50 back in 25.18 and Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., 18th in the women’s 50 breaststroke in 31.24.
‘’We have more (medal) opportunities to come on Saturday and we’ll just keep doing the process we do every day,’’ said Atkinson.
Action ends for the 27 Canadian pool swimmers Saturday with preliminary heats at 3 a.m. ET / 12 a.m. PT. Finals start at 12p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT daily. All finals will be livestreamed on CBC Sports digital platforms: the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
The world championships run through July 3, with open water swimming to follow the pool competition. Canada won eight medals in the pool (2 gold, six bronze) and one (bronze) in open water at the 2019 edition of the event in Gwangju, South Korea.
Full results: Competition Schedule | FINA Official