Kylie Masse capped a memorable Sunday for Canada’s swim team.
The two-time world champion set an Olympic record in the women’s 100-metre backstroke, winning in 58.17 seconds, only to see American rival Regan Smith (57.96) and Australia’s Kaylee McKeown (57.88) lower the mark in consecutive heat races at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
McKeown, Smith and Masse, from LaSalle, Ont., qualified 1-2-3 for Monday’s semifinals.
“This field is incredibly deep and challenging,” Masse told Swimming Canada. “I know it’s going to be fast for the next rounds so I’m seizing every opportunity to race and get some good times in there.”
Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., started slow but finished third in Masse’s heat to qualify 11th of 16 swimmers.
Earlier in the day, Penny Oleksiak anchored the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay team to a silver medal, Canada’s first of these Games.
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WATCH | Masse, Ruck secure spots in backstroke semifinals:
‘It all comes down to the final’
Masse, 25, said she had never seen anything like the Olympic record broken three times in the heats.
“I was thinking … put together a good race here,” she said. “I was super happy to achieve the Olympic record briefly, but in the end it all comes down to the final [on Tuesday].”
McKeown boasts a world-record 57.45 from mid-June, having surpassed Smith (57.57) after the latter took down the 58.10 mark Masse set at the 2017 world championship.
Masse arrived in Tokyo having improved upon her Canadian record with a 57.70 winning time at Canadian Olympic trials late last month in Toronto.
WATCH | Masse leans on family during pandemic:
Masse, who earned backstroke bronze in her 2016 Olympic debut in Rio, is also expected to compete in the 200 in Japan.
“She is so self-driven. She does not demand special attention,” CBC Sports analyst Byron MacDonald told The Canadian Press recently. “She’s very, very humble. You would never know that this woman is one of the finest athletes in the country in any sport.”
McIntosh shatters Canadian freestyle record
Summer McIntosh, at 14 the youngest Canadian athlete at these Games, is also headed to the final in the women’s 400 freestyle on Monday night after qualifying fifth in 4:02.72 to break Brittany MacLean’s Canadian record of 4:03.43 from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“It was so incredible,” McIntosh told Swimming Canada of her first Olympic experience. “It was amazing to race these remarkable swimmers from all over the world.
“I wasn’t expecting a certain time. I was just trying to be around my best time or under so I’m really happy with it.”
McIntosh raised eyebrows at Olympic trials when she defeated Oleksiak in the 200 free. On Monday, McIntosh will begin her quest for a medal in that event before competing in the 800 free heats on Thursday.
WATCH | McIntosh advances to final in 400:
“I think she might just make the finals in one or two of her races. But she won’t be going to the podium,” MacDonald told CBC Sports a month ago.
Five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky was tops in qualifying in 4:00.45, the first of her five scheduled events. The 24-year-old is looking to break the all-time record of eight gold medals won by an American woman.
The Canadian men’s 4×100 freestyle relay team, led by 37-year-old Brent Hayden — the oldest Canadian swimmer to compete at an Olympics — squeezed into Monday evening’s eight-team final in seventh following a 3:13.00 performance. Yuri Kisil, Josh Liendo and Ruslan Gaziev round out the squad.
WATCH | Hayden, Canadian relay teammates qualify for freestyle final:
Late in 2019, Hayden announced his comeback, seven years after retiring from a sport that in his final year of competing was laced with physical and mental pain.
“I’m excited to be back in that Olympic final and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with any other three guys, they were amazing,” said the four-time Olympian, who earned bronze in the 100 free at the 2012 London Games. “I had hoped to be a bit faster but … these guys carried us the rest of the way.”
Winnipeg resident Kelsey Wog clocked 1:07.73 for 23rd spot in the women’s 100 breaststroke but missed qualifying for the semifinals, as did Vancouver-born Kierra Smith (1:07.87) in 24th. Markus Thormeyer (53.80) of Delta, B.C., and Calgary’s Cole Pratt (54.27) were 19th and 26th, respectively, in the men’s 100 backstroke and will not advance.
WATCH | Oleksiak and teammates swim to silver medal while you were sleeping:
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