McIntosh crowned world champion as Canada wins four swimming medals on Wednesday
It was all part of a four-medal day for Team Canada at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest.
McIntosh the world’s best in 200m butterfly
The 15-year-old McIntosh won her second medal of the week when she took gold in the women’s 200m butterfly. Less than two hours later, she swam the leadoff leg for the 4x200m freestyle relay team that won bronze.
McIntosh finished the 200m butterfly in 2:05.20, breaking the Canadian and world junior records she had set in Tuesday’s semifinal by 0.59 of a second. That had made her the fastest qualifier for the final, giving her lane four in the middle of the pool.
In the final, McIntosh was third to the first turn after China’s Zhang Yufei, the reigning Olympic champion, got off to a quick start. But as they got into the second half of the race, McIntosh used her power to take the lead. She was challenged by American Regan Smith as they turned for the final 50m, but after a long, fast glide underwater, Smith was unable to keep pace. McIntosh kept her stroke consistent and held off the field to easily touch the wall first.
Another American, Hali Flickinger, came through for the silver, 0.88 of a second back of McIntosh in 2:06.08 while Zhang claimed bronze in 2:06.32.
“First 100, the second 50, I definitely pushed a little bit and then didn’t really think much until the last 50 metres,” said McIntosh. “I just literally gave it my all and did everything I could and put in all my energy and all my focus and just got to the wall and put my hand on the wall as fast as I possibly could!”
“It means a lot,” said the new world champion. “It’s one of my biggest dreams in the swimming world to become world champion and to especially do it in the 200 fly. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, this is one of my favourite events.”
McIntosh won silver in the 400m freestyle on Saturday for Canada’s first medal of the worlds. This is Canada’s first ever long course world championship medal in the women’s 200m butterfly. She is the first swimmer aged 15 or younger to win a gold medal at the worlds since 2011. She is the youngest Canadian swimmer to ever win gold at the World Aquatics Championships, breaking the mark held by Victor Davis who was 18 when he won the men’s 200m breaststroke in 1982.
Liendo breaks through for 100m freestyle bronze
Her victory was quickly followed by Joshua Liendo claiming bronze in the men’s 100m freestyle.
Liendo had qualified for the final with the third-fastest time (47.55 seconds) in the semifinals, putting him into lane three with that personal best effort.
In the final, Liendo was the first man to the turn. But in the final 50m, he was soon racing side by side against 17-year-old David Popovici of Romania and Maxime Grousset of France. In an exciting finish, the three men ended up separated by just 0.13 of a second. Popvici took the gold in 47.58 with Grousset placing second in 47.64, just ahead of Liendo in 47.71.
“That was just what I wanted to do. I knew I had to swim my race, I couldn’t swim anybody else’s race,” said Liendo. “I feel like I could’ve swam the first 50 a little bit better. Obviously the last 50 was a fight, it came down to the wire. But it was a fun race.”
He was also inspired by his young teammate’s performance, which he had watched before heading into the ready room.
“She definitely got the blood flowing, She got me pumped up.”
The 19-year-old is just the second Canadian man to ever win a long course world championship medal in the 100m freestyle. Brent Hayden tied for gold in 2007 and won silver in 2011. Liendo had captured bronze in the 100m freestyle at the short course (25m) world championships in 2021.
Masse wins 50m backstroke gold
Next, Kylie Masse earned her spot atop the podium in the non-Olympic women’s 50m backstroke event. She claimed the gold medal in 27.31 seconds, adding to the silver she won on Monday in the 100m backstroke. Teammate Ingrid Wilm was just off the podium in fourth place, missing the bronze by 0.03 of a second.
“It feels pretty surreal. I think I’ve watched my 50 progress throughout the last couple of years. I’ve gained a lot of strength and I worked a lot on my speed,” said Masse. “To be able to swim the 50, 100 and the 200 is something I’m really proud of so I couldn’t have asked for more to get on top of the podium tonight. I’m really stoked.”
This is Masse’s first career long course worlds medal in the 50m event. It is the seventh long course world championship medal of her career. She is the first Canadian swimmer, male or female, to win three gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships. She is one of only three swimmers to win gold medals at the last three FINA World Championships, adding to the 100m backstroke titles she won in 2017 and 2019.
Ring up another relay medal
In the final event of the day, Canada (7:44.76) won bronze in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay as the quartet of McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Taylor Ruck, and Penny Oleksiak finished behind the United States (7:41.45) and Australia (7:43.86). Rebecca Smith, Katerine Savard, and Mary-Sophie Harvey swam in the morning preliminaries and will also receive medals.
McIntosh got the Canadians off to a great start, giving them a lead of almost two seconds when she made the handover. Her leadoff leg time of 1:54.79 counts as a world junior record in the 200m freestyle. Sanchez, who is primarily a 100m swimmer, faded a little towards the end of her leg and Australia moved into the lead by 0.17 of a second.
Ruck then took over and found herself in a fight with Australian Kiah Melverton and American Katie Ledecky. In the last 50m, Ruck also tired as Ledecky surged the U.S. into the lead. When Oleksiak jumped in for the anchor leg, Canada was in third place. She maintained that position ahead of China which won Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 where Canada finished fourth.
This is the seventh long course world championship medal of Oleksiak’s career. That ties her with Masse for the most won by a Canadian woman in swimming. Only Ryan Cochrane, who won eight medals, has earned more.
The swimming events will continue in Budapest through Saturday, with finals beginning each day at noon ET. You can stream the finals on CBCSports.ca and CBC Gem.