Team Canada blasted into day two at the FINA World Junior Championships with a four medal night. Capped off by a gold medal in the mixed 4×100-metre medley relay, Canada captured silver medals from Taylor Ruck and Faith Knelson, and a bronze from Jade Hannah.
The 4×100-m mixed relay team of Ruck, Gabe Mastromatteo, Penny Oleksiak and Ruslan Gaziev clocked in at 3 minutes 46.36 seconds ahead of the Americans and the Russians. Team Canada benefited from a strong anchor leg from Markham Aquatic Club’s Gaziev who vaulted the team from fifth to first in the final 100 metres.
“Obviously it’s big because Canada’s on the come-up in terms of relay swimming so it was nice to get that one,” said Gaziev. “I don’t think we really expected it before today, even our coach said it was unexpected, so it’s good.”
“I thought it was so great. It was nice that they stepped up and did that,” responded Ruck when asked about the effort from her teammates. “We had some really good competition from the other countries,” she added.
“It feels good being part of the mixed relay,” said Mastromatteo, who swam the breaststroke leg of the relay. “This is my first big meet so it’s nice swimming with people who’ve done it before and showing us what to do.”
Ruck’s first medal of the night came in the 100-m backstroke, where she shared the podium with teammate Hannah. Ruck, of the High Performance Centre – Ontario, took home a silver medal in a 15-17 Canadian record time of 59.23, while Hannah, of NextGen – Victoria, captured bronze in 59.62.
“It was amazing to share the podium with your teammate, it’s the best feeling in the world,” said Ruck. “Especially because I’ve gotten to know her this trip so it’s been fun to be with her and to train with her.”
“I’ve been working towards this goal for a long time, so to have it pay off feels really good. I’m so happy we got two Canadians on the same podium tonight,” said Hannah, a Halifax native. “I’ve had a lot of up and downs with this event, I’ve learned to be resilient.”
Ruck took sole possession of the record for most world junior medals by a Canadian tonight with a total of nine. She and Oleksiak had seven medals each after Wednesday’s 4×200-m freestyle relay gold.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without them or my coach Ben Titley,” stated Ruck. “I owe a lot of my success in the pool and out of it to my teammates, they inspire me a lot.”
Faith Knelson of NextGen – Victoria added to Canada’s medal haul with a silver in the 50-m breaststroke. The 16-year-old clocked 30.91, second only to USA’s Emily Weiss.
“I was just going out there trying to get on the podium. That was the ultimate goal,” said Knelson. “I tried to follow what my coach was telling me to do, stay in my own lane, focus on my own swim. I knew it was a tight race, I just focused on my last two strokes and tried to get my hands on the wall.”
Oakville’s Mabel Zavaros finished just outside the medals, but set a 15-17 Canadian record in the 200-m butterfly. Zavaros, 17, finished in 2:09.79, just 0.15 behind Great Britain’s Keanna MacInnes.
“I was going for a medal, but my goal all year has been to go under 2:10, so obviously I’m going to learn from that and be better for next year and next season,” said Zavaros. “I think this experience has really helped me have more confidence in myself and believing that I can achieve my goals.”
Zavaros and Hannah will also receive gold medals for their morning swims in the mixed relay, which contributed to Canada advancing to the final.
High Performance Centre – Ontario teammates Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith advanced to the 100-m freestyle finals. Sanchez and Smith clocked 54.62 and 54.73 to progress to Friday’s final third and fourth.
“The coaching staff continues to be impressed by the discipline and focus of the athletes. Tonight’s session was probably the best session Swimming Canada has had at a World Junior Championships,” said Ken McKinnon, Swimming Canada’s National Development Coach. “We had four medals tonight, including a come from behind win in the relay. That relay swim showed our depth with six different athletes contributing to achieve a gold medal. Beating the United States on their home turf capped off a very satisfying day for Team Canada.”
Story and Photo: Swimming Canada | Swimming.ca