Kylie Masse dives backwards from the start into the poolTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Olympic Swimming Trials: Masse & Wilm prove Canada has some backstroke power

On the third day of the Olympic & Paralympic Swimming Trials, Presented by Bell, all eyes were on the women’s 100m backstroke final, featuring a pair of world championship medallists who did not disappoint.

Racing side-by-side in the middle of the pool were Kylie Masse and Ingrid Wilm. One a two-time Olympian, the other trying to get to her first Olympic Games.

Masse, who has been Canada’s queen of the backstroke for close to a decade, had been the only one to go under the Olympic Qualifying Time of 59.99 during the morning prelims. But that only inspired Wilm to be at her best in the final. In the end, Masse touched the wall first in 57.94 seconds, with Wilm just behind in 59.31, under the mark she needed to book her ticket to Paris 2024.

“I was just trying to be with Kylie for that first 50, she’s such an amazing swimmer,” said a thrilled Wilm. “She made it so easy to be competitive and race beside.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been at 57 [seconds], it’s been three years, so it feels really great to have put that out,” said Masse, who set the Canadian record at 57.70 at the last Olympic Trials in 2021 and now has the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Masse has been on the podium in the 100m backstroke at the last two Olympic Games, winning bronze at Rio 2016 before grabbing silver at Tokyo 2020. She has also won three world championship medals in the event, including back-to-back world titles in 2017 and 2019.

But in her last trip to the World Aquatics Championships in 2023, Masse missed the podium for the first time, finishing fourth. That had led to some doubts creeping in about her capabilities. She had moved her training base to Europe, but that brought with it some unexpected challenges — logistical difficulties as well as being far away from many of the people she would normally turn to for support.

Now feeling more settled, she says her two swims on Wednesday gave her the boost she needed to stay focused for this summer.

“A lot of my competitors around the world are throwing down 57s quite often, so for me this is a massive step forward, to know that I’m back up being able to compete with them and I hope to continue to take down that time,” said Masse.

While Masse opted out of the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, Canada was well-represented in the backstroke by Wilm, who won bronze in the 100m. The 25-year-old has been on the rise since she debuted at the World Aquatics Championships in 2022. But as happy as she was to have the weight of Olympic qualification off her back, she was eager to praise Masse.

“Kylie Masse is such an icon and a legend. And not only that, one of the things I really really love about her is her kindness and sportsmanship, not just her performances in the pool,” gushed Wilm. “She’s someone who, no matter how old I am, I always strive to be at her level of maturity and kindness.”

Among the other events in the pool on Wednesday was the men’s 200m freestyle, for which the Olympic Qualifying Time (1:46.26) was actually faster than the Canadian record (1:46.40) in the event. While no men hit that entry standard, Canada does have a men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team to fill out.

Alex Axon celebrates after winning the men’s 200m freestyle at the Olympic Trials. Photo by Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

In line to be part of that team is Alex Axon, who won the event in 1:47.56, just ahead of Patrick Hussey in 1:47.78. Right behind them were Lorne Wigginton (1:47.93) and veteran Jeremy Bagshaw (1:48.49), who has been through the heartache of just missing out on the last two Olympic teams. Not racing in the final were Joshua Liendo and Finlay Knox, who had both scratched after being the second and third fastest, respectively, in the morning prelims. Relay team athletes will only become official during the team announcement on Sunday night, pending the number of available spots.

The women’s 1500m freestyle was won by long distance specialist Emma Finlin. Though she was comfortably ahead of the field, her time was not fast enough to qualify her in this event for Paris 2024. However, the 19-year-old was already guaranteed to be making her Olympic debut after qualifying in the 10km open water event at the 2024 World Championships.

The Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials, Presented by Bell, will continue until Sunday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Preliminary heats begin at 9:30 a.m. ET each day, with the finals sessions starting at 6:00 p.m. each evening. It all leads up to the official announcement of Team Canada’s Paris 2024 swimming team on Sunday night.

All competition sessions are being streamed live on CBC Sports digital platforms (CBC Gem,, CBC Sports app). There is also a nightly highlight show on CBC TV.