Another national record is broken, an Olympic medallist books his return ticket to the Games, while the son of a Canadian swimming legend surprises.
It was a crazy night of finals on Day 3 of the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials.
It all began with a stacked field competing in the women’s 200m freestyle. In a highly contested race, the top three shuffled throughout the first three legs before Brittany MacLean took over the Canadian record pace that had been set at the midway mark by 15-year-old Taylor Ruck. In a frantic race to the wall, MacLean got there ahead of another 15-year-old, Penny Oleksiak, setting a new national record of 1:56.94 by taking 0.03 off Genevieve Saumur’s standard that had stood since the “suit era” in 2009.
It was MacLean’s second record of the meet following her opening night victory in the 400m freestyle. She is also the top seed in the 800m freestyle, which has its final on Saturday. Oleksiak, finishing in 1:57.59, also earned a spot in a second Olympic event following her win in the 100m butterfly.
“I’m super excited,” said MacLean. “That’s the way I love to swim. I swim this sport for the relationships, for the memories made, all that stuff. This week is so emotional with all these people. There’s dreams coming true and there’s dreams not coming true. So you gotta try and stay in your mind.”
Coming in third and fourth were Katerine Savard (1:58.17) and Kennedy Goss (1:58.26). Both were under the Olympic Qualifying Time (1:58.96) and will also head to Rio as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay. For Savard, she had to put the disappointment of missing the Olympic team in her signature event, the 100m butterfly, behind her. Goss, meanwhile, becomes a second generation Olympian, following in the wake of her father Sandy who won silver medals as part of the 4x100m medley relay at both Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988.
But Goss wasn’t the only child of an Olympic medallist to shine on Thursday. In the final Olympic qualifier of the night, Ashton Baumann smashed his previous personal best by almost three seconds to win the 200m breaststroke in 2:10.69, putting him under the Olympic Qualifying Time of 2:11.66. The 23-year-old son of Los Angeles 1984 double gold medallist Alex Baumann has only really been training fully for eight months after enduring two years of injuries since making his FINA World Championship debut in 2013.
“This morning felt pretty controlled,” said Baumann of his prelim that was three seconds over the Olympic Qualifying Time. “This meet’s been a real pressure cooker for me and I just really struggled with my nerves. You know going into that I wasn’t too sure how it would pan out and uh, a hell of a lot better than I thought that it would.”
“My coach said ‘Ashton, you have a tendency to overthink, overcomplicate, just go out and swim it. You’ve got the training base behind you, as long you don’t go out like an idiot you’re not going to die.’ So you know, I ran that hard and held it.”
Two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane also locked up his spot on the team for Rio with a win in the 400m freestyle in 3:48.54. For much of the race he had training mate Jeremy Bagshaw on his hip before opening up a lead as his fellow Pan Am Games team member fell just short of meeting the Olympic Qualifying Time of 3:50.44.
“Olympic trials is so fought with stress and energy and ups and downs that I think it takes a bit of a toll on you when I can be more selfish at the Olympics and only focus on myself but here I feel like I’m focusing on my teammates and it’s just so hard,” said Cochrane.
As a world bronze medallist in the 400m freestyle, combined with his great history of podium success in his best event, the 1500m freestyle (that final to come on Sunday), Cochrane was not shy about his ambitions to win two medals in Rio.
“I think if you can perform in April then you’re gonna be that much better in August,” Cochrane added. “I’m hoping to be six, seven seconds faster this summer. So I did what I had to here and I’ll go work on a couple seconds to progress on but I think you have to be able to perform when you need to and this is a really good practice for performing on the day in Rio.”
A pair of female breaststrokers also secured spots in Rio. Kierra Smith and Rachel Nicol were the class of the field in the 100m breaststroke. They were the only two swimmers to go under the Olympic Qualifying Time (1:07.85) in the morning prelims and followed through in the final, although they did switch spots, with Smith taking the victory in 1:06.93 and Nichol, the Pan Am Games bronze medallist, right behind in 1:07.10.
“I enjoyed that so much tonight, I’m so happy right now,” said Smith. “I just wanted to come top two and be under the standard but to win the 100 breast is so hard, it takes so much pressure off the 200 on Saturday”