It’s official. Canada will be sending a team of 27 swimmers to Rio 2016.
The team was announced at the conclusion of the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on Sunday (more on Day 6 results below).
Leading the way is two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane, who is headed to his third Olympic Games. He has stated outright that his goal is to win a pair of medals in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events, as he did at last year’s world championships. Open water swimmer Richard Weinberger, who won bronze at London 2012, was also named after earning his spot at the 2015 FINA World Championships.
The team also includes world championship medallists Martha McCabe (200m breaststroke bronze, 2011), Hilary Caldwell (200m backstroke bronze, 2013) and Emily Overholt (400m IM bronze, 2015), as well as Santo Condorelli (4th in 100m freestyle, 2015).
If one thing was made clear by the last week of racing, it’s that the women are the deepest side of the Canadian squad, fielding 19 Olympic team members versus just eight men.
Rio 2016 swim team in pictures:
“I think it’s amazing,” said Caldwell. “I don’t want to swear right now but I’m so excited about, like the women’s team is by far and away the fastest we’ve ever had. We’ve got some amazing, amazing big hitters and some great relays and on the men’s side we’ve got less but strong, strong guys. So I’m really excited. It’s gonna be a great team.”
“I think the standards are harder and so instead of bringing people who can probably final, which are say get a second swim, I think its really hard,” said Cochrane. “I mean some of these swimmers were a second off in two races total and it’s devastating but we have to make those standards harder, so that you can get to those times here and get even better in the summer. We don’t have a lot of quantity on the men’s side but I think we have the quality and hopefully we can do better than we did last time.”
Notable rookies include new Canadian record holders Penny Oleksiak (100m butterfly, 100m freestyle) and Kylie Masse (100m backstroke). Turning 16 in June, Oleksiak is the youngest member of the swimming team and along with Taylor Ruck become Canada’s first Olympians born in 2000. Audrey Lacroix is the veteran of the squad, heading to her third Olympic Games after having made her world championship debut in 2001.
There are also a couple of second generation Olympians in Ashton Baumann, son of Los Angeles 1984 double gold medallist Alex Baumann, and Kennedy Goss, daughter of two-time medley relay silver medallist Sandy Goss.
Here is the complete roster (click name for bio):
Dominique Bouchard (North Bay, ON)
Hilary Caldwell (White Rock, BC)
Kennedy Goss (Toronto, ON)
Audrey Lacroix (Pont-Rouge, QC)
Brittany MacLean (Toronto, ON)
Sandrine Mainville (Boucherville, QC)
Kylie Masse (LaSalle, ON)
Martha McCabe (Toronto, ON)
Rachel Nicol (Lethbridge, AB)
Penny Oleksiak (Toronto, ON)
Emily Overholt (West Vancouver, BC)
Sydney Pickrem (Oldsmar, FL/Halifax, NS)
Taylor Ruck (Scottsdale, AZ)
Katerine Savard (Pont-Rouge, QC)
Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson (Ottawa, ON)
Kierra Smith (Kelowna, BC)
Noemie Thomas (Richmond, BC)
Chantal Van Landeghem (Winnipeg, MB)
Michelle Williams (Toronto, ON)
Javier Acevedo (Scarborough, ON)
Ashton Baumann (Ottawa, ON)
Ryan Cochrane (Victoria, BC)
Santo Condorelli (Kenora, ON)
Yuri Kisil (Calgary, AB)
Markus Thormeyer (Markham, ON)
Evan Van Moerkerke (Tilsonburg, ON)
Richard Weinberger (Kitsilano, BC)
All of the swimmers who earned their spots in individual events did so with a top two finish at the Trials, provided they also went under the Olympic Qualifying Time set in each event. That time was equivalent to what it took to place 16th in the prelims at London 2012.
Caldwell was one of the last additions to the team, earning her spot on Saturday night in her specialty, the 200m backstroke. Under her own Canadian record (2:06.80) pace for a large chunk of the race, she finished in 2:07.96, just ahead of Dominique Bouchard (2:08.52), who adds a second event to the 100m backstroke in which she was already qualified for Rio.
“This is by far the best I’ve ever been this time of year,” said Caldwell. “I think my best time (in the spring) until now is 2:09, so I’m really happy with that and I think there’s a lot of room for the little changes between now and the summer to make a big difference.”
Chantal Van Landeghem, who got onto the team Saturday night in the 100m freestyle, also made it in the 50m freestyle, the event in which she placed fifth at last year’s world championships, with a winning time of 24.63. Joining her is Michelle Williams, who was right behind in 24.82.
“I have big goals, you know?” said Van Landeghem. “Not only do I want to go best time, I want to go big best time. So we’ll see how it plays out.”
The men’s 50m freestyle was super tight, with Yuri Kisil taking the victory in 22.23, finishing just 0.02 ahead of Condorelli, both of them just under the Olympic Qualifying Time of 22.27. Kisil and Condorelli had both previously qualified for Rio in the 100m freestyle.
The last event of the meet was the 1500m freestyle. To no one’s surprise, this race was all about Cochrane, as he opened up more than half a pool length lead on the field. He posted a winning time of 15:00.75, more than 20 seconds faster than anyone else, to be Canada’s only qualifier in the pool’s longest event.
“It’s pretty much right on where I am every year,” said Cochrane of being well-off his national record 14:39.63 set at London 2012. “I think we’re still trying different things in warmup. It is difficult to be pushed alone and I try to see the clock and push myself but I think my internal instinct of racing doesn’t quote get fulfilled here and I think it’s exciting to see those guys race for that second spot, but hopefully I can be that much better when I’m pushed towards 14:40 and under.”