Canada finished Day 1 of the FINA World Junior Championships with a bang, as the women’s 4×200-metre freestyle relay won gold in world junior record time Wednesday in Indianapolis.
Kayla Sanchez, Penny Oleksiak, Rebecca Smith and Taylor Ruck left the field behind with a time of 7:51.47, nearly six seconds ahead of Russia and faster than any team of teenagers in history.
All four train at the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Ontario, and Sanchez, Oleksiak, and Smith all swam at the FINA World Championships in Budapest in July.
“I think it was pretty exciting. Going into the race we were all pretty confident with what times we could go and to come out with the gold medal and a world junior record is pretty awesome,” said Oleksiak, who helped the senior team to two relay bronze medals at FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last month.
“I think it’s pretty cool because all four of us train together and we’re all super close,” added Smith, who was part of one of the Budapest bronzes. “Just to have that team atmosphere is pretty great.”
Mabel Zavaros, who helped the team qualify through morning heats as top seed, will also receive a gold medal.
“We couldn’t have done it without Mabel doing it in the morning as well,” Smith said. “It was a team effort and we all went pretty fast.”
“Swimming Canada has put a lot of resources into relay development since 2013,” said Swimming Canada National Development Coach Ken McKinnon. “This is a first step in the quad to get to the next level in Tokyo 2020. We’re really proud of the five girls and coaches that were involved for what they achieved today.”
It was the second world junior record of the day for Ruck, who also swam the 100-m backstroke semifinal in 59.28.
This meet is Ruck’s main focus this summer. The double Olympic medallist missed the senior team at Canadian Swimming Trials in April, but has refocused since joining Ben Titley’s HPC-Ontario.
“We all train so well together, we’re really a cohesive group of girls,” Ruck said. “This is my meet to step out and show what I can do. I feel like this is where I should be, doing these times, so I’m happy with where I am.”
The new mark sends her to Thursday’s final as top seed, and re-set her own 15-17 Canadian record, which dropped three times Wednesday. Ruck had lowered the mark to 59.64 in the morning session, only a heat after Jade Hannah of Halifax set possibly the shortest-lived record in Canadian history.
Hannah, who trains with the Swimming Canada NextGen – Victoria program, also progressed to the backstroke semifinal third by matching her morning time of 1:00.21.
Her NextGen – Victoria teammate Faith Knelson, meanwhile, qualified for the 50-m breaststroke final second, after sprinting to a 31.15 in her semifinal earlier in the night.
“Ever since Trials my team has been working on executing small things that can add up to big things. I’m trying to be attentive to detail in my race, putting my head down, and going out there and having fun,” she said. “I’m just swimming my own race and not really caring about what goes on around me.”
In the men’s 100-m breaststroke, Gabe Mastromatteo of Kenora, Ont., just missed advancing to the final, settling for ninth despite lowering his national 15-17 record to 1:01.64.
“I was just trying to race. It felt like I put a bit more effort in earlier in the race, which I was trying to do,” he said.
“This is one of the best Day 1s we’ve had as a Canadian junior team. We had seven for nine improved swims this morning, showing the program and preparation has been pretty comprehensive and successful to date. Our job now is to settle everybody down, look at the next session and try to stay consistent through the next five days,” McKinnon said.
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