The 2016 FINA Short Course World Championships in swimming just wrapped this month and the Canadian National team finished the meet with an impressive total medal count of eight, including two gold medals in relay events.
The event took place on Canadian soil in Windsor, Ontario, in a specially converted Windsor Family Credit Union Centre (WFCU) — an ice hockey arena normally home to the Windsor Spitfires of the junior Ontario Hockey League.
While the stands of the 6,500-seat arena never appeared to be sold out, the home crowd made sure that the noise level was never short of ear-piercing as they cheered for Canadian swimmers.
The Canadian roster consisted of stars like 16-year-olds Taylor Ruck and Penny Oleksiak, as well as Quebec butterfly swimmer Katherine Savard, who have become household names due to their roles in Canada’s multi-medal effort at this past summer’s Rio Olympic Games.
It is important to note that the Olympics are held in a 50-metre pool, and the short-course world championships are held in 25-metre pool.
The competition didn’t start out in Canada’s favour when a medal relay performance in the women’s 4x100m freestyle was met with disqualification. It was discovered that the swimmers had swam in a different order than presented on the sheet handed in to FINA officials.
However, the tides quickly turned when Oleksiak delivered a bronze-medal performance in the 100m freestyle, the event in which she captured the gold medal at Rio. Ruck also put forward a solid effort in the 200m freestyle event, winning a bronze medal.
Windsor’s own Kylie Masse, fresh off her bronze-medal effort in Rio, won a silver medal in front of her hometown crowd in the 100m backstroke. University of Manitoba’s Kelsey Wog — an 18-year-old breaststroke swimmer who initially joined the team as an alternate — won Canada’s most surprising medal when she placed second in the 200m breaststroke ahead of reigning 100m Olympic champion Lily King of the United States.
“I had such a great time racing in front of a home crowd,” said Wog in regards to the competition. “It was really cool having everyone cheering for Team Canada. I had an amazing race and it was so surprising finishing as well as I did.”
The ’Birds were well-represented at the championships, with sprinters Markus Thormeyer and Yuri Kisil present. The duo swam together in the preliminaries for the 100m freestyle. Kisil placed second overall with a strong time of 46.79. He just missed out on the final, finishing 11th overall.
Kisil also swam in the 50m event, finishing one spot out of the semi-finals at 17th with a time of 21.72. Thormeyer swam the 200m and finished in 22nd place overall with a time 1:45.36.
But both Kisil and Thormeyer left with a bronze medal, having won it in the 4x50m freestyle mixed relay, together with Michelle Williams and Sandrine Mainville. Their final time of 1:29.83 put them just 0.01 of a second behind the second place Dutch team that included Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
Overall, the meet was a huge success for Canadian swimmers, who will now rest seeing that Windsor was the final major international competition for 2016. But there’s plenty of competition to look forward to in 2017, including the 2017 FINA long-course World Championships in Budapest and the 2017 U Sport Championships in Sherbrooke.