All eyes will be on the water this month as we head into the 17th FINA World Championships, taking place July 14-30 in Budapest, Hungary.
Competition in the swimming pool doesn’t begin until July 23, but Team Canada’s athletes are prepared to make a splash as they compete against the world’s best.
Leading the way on the women’s team is Olympic star Penny Oleksiak. After winning four medals at Rio 2016, the most ever by a Canadian athlete at a single summer Games, the 17-year-old from Toronto is now set to make her debut at the FINA World Championships. She qualified for the team with gold medals in the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly events at the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials in Victoria. It was in those events that she won her two individual medals in Rio, highlighted by her victory in the 100m freestyle in Olympic record time.
“Right now I feel the best I’ve felt all year,” Oleksiak said before leaving for Europe, noting that she had dealt with some minor injuries earlier this year. “I always say the same thing, it’s kind of weird but, I am just really hoping to swim fast. As long as I know I’m putting in 100 per cent I’m going to be happy.”
Canada’s other two individual swimming medallists from Rio are also on the squad. Kylie Masse left the trials on top, winning gold medals in all three (50m, 100m, 200m) backstroke events while lowering her national record in the 100m. The Olympic bronze medallist in the 100m is sure to create tough competition, having ended 2016 with a silver in the 100m backstroke at the short course worlds in Windsor, Ontario. These will be her first long course worlds.
Fellow backstroker Hilary Caldwell took home 200m bronze in Rio. She first made waves by winning bronze in that same event at the 2013 FINA World Championships. She just missed the podium at December’s short course worlds with her fourth place finish in the 200m backstroke. Caldwell finished second to Masse in the 100m and 200m at the trials.
From the 4x100m freestyle relay team that won bronze at Rio 2016, three other team members are headed to Budapest with Oleksiak, making for a highly anticipated reunion.
Also from Toronto is Michelle Toro (née Williams), returning to the worlds for the second time. She won gold in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the 100m freestyle at the 2017 national trials.
Sandrine Mainville is expected to compete in the 50m and 100m freestyle after swimming her way to two silver medals at the trials. She had a top individual placement of sixth in the 100m freestyle at last year’s short course worlds.
“I think at trials I was really excited to make the relay with them (Oleksiak, Toro and Van Landeghem) because we were kind of all separated this year,” Mainville said during one of the last training sessions at home. “Chantal went back to Georgia for school, I went back to Montreal this year for school, so when I saw the board and the fact we all made it, I was so excited we were able to get back together for the summer.”
Chantal Van Landeghem earned herself a spot on the world championship team with her fourth place performance in the 100m freestyle at the trials, putting her in line for a start in the relay. She’s also very aware that the team’s success in Rio may lead to more expectations.
“I think this year it will be harder to walk away with a medal compared to last year,” Van Landeghem told media in Toronto. “But I think, for at least myself and for the other ladies, it makes us more motivated to go out there because we know what we’re capable of and we want to be standing on that podium again.”
Another Olympic medallist, Katerine Savard, will likely be suiting up for the 100m butterfly alongside Oleksiak. A member of the 4x200m freestyle relay in Rio, she finished fifth in the 100m butterfly at both the 2013 and 2015 FINA World Championships and took home a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Savard won the 200m freestyle at trials.
Other Rio 2016 Olympians on the women’s pool team include Rachel Nicol, Kierra Smith, Sydney Pickrem and Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson. Nicol (100m breaststroke), Smith (200m breaststroke) and Pickrem (200m individual medley) were all event finalists in Rio.
For the men, these will be the first worlds since 2007 not to include Ryan Cochrane as part of the FINA World Championship team. Cochrane, who retired in March, first competed at the worlds in 2009 and went on to win eight career medals.
The youngest male swimmer on the 2016 Olympic team, Acevedo came through at the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials with medals in all three backstroke events: gold in the 100m, silver in the 50m and bronze in the 200m. He is expected to compete in the first two events at his first FINA World Championships after having been at junior worlds in 2015 where he won silver in the 50m backstroke.
Thormeyer also had a successful trials, winning gold in the 200m freestyle. Another graduate from the 2015 junior worlds, Thormeyer stood on the podium several times in the recent Mare Nostrum interational series.
Kisil is expected to compete in the 50m and 100m freestyle events at worlds, having won gold in the latter and silver in the former at trials. Kisil won three individual gold medals in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events at the 2017 U Sports Swimming Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Before the competition heads to the pool, a few Canadian swimmers will compete in the open water events starting July 15. Eric Hedlin will be the man to watch in the non-Olympic men’s 5km, as he made his FINA World Championships debut in 2013 by winning a silver medal in that race. In the Olympic distance 10km race, attention will be on 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Richard Weinberger, who finished eighth at the 2015 FINA World Championships, which qualified him for Rio. Phillipe Guertin, who has been a winner of FINA’s World Cup circuit, rounds out the men’s open water contingent.
As for the women’s open water events, Stephanie Horner and Jade Dusablon will first hit the water a day later on July 16. Horner is a three-time Olympian, who switched from the pool to the open water for Rio 2016. Gold medallist in the 1500m freestyle at trials, she chose instead to compete in the 10km open water event at the worlds. Joining her in that event will be Dusablon while Breanne Siwicki will be the sole female Canadian to compete in the 5km.
Here is the complete Team Canada swimming roster with the individual events in which they qualified at the national trials. Relay participants will be finalized prior to the start of each event:
Olivia Anderson (800m freestyle, 1500m freestyle)
Hilary Caldwell (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke)
Jade Dusablon (10km open water)
Mary-Sophie Harvey (200m freestyle, 400m freestyle, 400m individual medley)
Stephanie Horner (10km open water)
Sandrine Mainville (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle)
Kylie Masse (50m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke)
Ashley McGregor (200m breaststroke)
Rachel Nicol (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke)
Penny Oleksiak (100m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 100m butterfly)
Mackenzie Padington (400m freestyle, 800m freestyle)
Sydney Pickrem (200m individual medley, 400m individual medley)
Kayla Sanchez (relays)
Katerine Savard (200m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 100m butterfly)
Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson (200m individual medley)
Breanne Siwicki (5km open water)
Kierra Smith (100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke)
Rebecca Smith (relays)
Michelle Toro (50m freestyle)
Chantal Van Landeghem (relays)
Javier Acevedo (50m backstroke, 100m backstroke)
Jeremy Bagshaw (400m freestyle)
Josiah Binnema (50m butterfly, 100m butterfly)
Tristan Cote (400m individual medley)
Richard Funk (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke)
Phillipe Guertin (10km open water)
Eric Hedlin (5km open water)
Yuri Kisil (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle)
Alex Loginov (50m freestyle)
Carson Olafson (relays)
Markus Thormeyer (200m freestyle)
Richard Weinberger (10km open water)