Jade Hannah and the women’s 4×100-m freestyle won gold medals on the fifth night of swimming at the FINA World Junior Championships. Canada’s relay of Taylor Ruck, Penny Oleksiak, Rebecca Smith and Kayla Sanchez also set a world junior record after finishing in 3 minutes 36.19 seconds.
Ruck led off the relay in a 100-m freestyle world junior championship record time of 53.63. It was her own record from the 2015 World Junior Championships in Singapore.
Canada never relinquished the lead, and finished three and a half seconds ahead of the rest of the field. USA touched in second, and Japan was third.
“This team is so strong as a group and we’re all so close, so we’re all swimming fast and building on each other’s success and doing well,” said Smith. “We’re doing so well right now and we’re all still learning so we can all still improve.”
All four relay swimmers train at the High Performance Centre – Ontario.
“I think it’s pretty important to have people training together and people racing together as much as they can because it builds a team,” said Oleksiak.
Jade Hannah, who trains at NextGen – Victoria, won Canada’s first individual gold medal of the championships. Hannah shared the 50-m backstroke gold with Japan’s Natsumi Sakai after they tied in 27.93.
“I’m very happy. I’m so excited right now I can’t put anything into words,” said the Halifax native. “The team has pushed me to do my very best, they’re very supportive.”
“I was so happy to get under 28 tonight. It means a lot to me because I’ve worked so hard for it. It was so exciting to be able to have the first individual gold medal for Team Canada, it’s just such an exciting moment for me.”
Canada now has five gold medals over the competition, the most ever at a World Junior Championships.
Kayla Sanchez, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario, qualified for Monday’s 50-m freestyle final in sixth. The 16-year-old completed the splash-and-dash in 25.35.
In her first race of the evening, Smith advanced to the 100-m butterfly final along with her teammate Mabel Zavaros. Smith, a Red Deer, Alta., native clocked in with a 58.79, good for the second seed in the finals. Zavaros, of Oakville Aquatic Club, squeaked into the final in eighth in 59.36.
Gabe Mastromatteo of Kenora, Ont., also snuck into a final in eighth. The 15-year-old’s 50-m breaststroke time of 28.30 was enough to put him into Monday’s final.
Ruslan Gaziev finished his meet off with a 14th place in the 100-m freestyle. The 18-year-old Markham Aquatic Club swimmer touched in with a 50.21.
Team Canada’s medal total of twelve is approaching their best ever World Junior Championships medal count of fourteen, which was achieved at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru.
“The 2017 World Junior Championships team continues to show progress in the specifics of what we’re asking them to do,” said Ken McKinnon, Swimming Canada’s National Development Coach. “They’ve been able to swim fast in the prelims sessions, faster in the semifinals, and at their best in the finals. We’ve been extremely successful this week, it’s something we’ve planned for and worked on.”
“Swimming Canada has dedicated an enormous amount of resources and focus to relay development since 2013, and we’re beginning to see it payoff now. We hope to see it continue into Tokyo in 2020.”