TORONTO - It was a throwback to Rio 2016 on the fourth night of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Swimming Trials, presented by Bell, as Penny Oleksiak won the women’s 100-metre freestyle, the event in which she claimed Olympic gold five years ago.
The Toronto native, who was provisionally nominated by Swimming Canada’s Selection Committee earlier this year in the 200-m free, posted the Bell Performance of the Day. Her lightning-fast 52.89 seconds was only 0.19 seconds off of the Canadian record that earned her gold in Rio.
Other athletes who posted Olympic qualifying times on the penultimate evening of the meet included Kelsey Wog of Winnipeg, who took the women’s 200-m breaststroke, and Markham, Ont.’s Joshua Liendo, who placed first in the men’s 100-m freestyle.
“It honestly just gives me a massive boost of confidence that I’ve been searching for a little bit,” said Oleksiak, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Ontario. “To run that time is super big for me.”
Oleksiak said that after the Rio Olympics, where she won four medals, there was a lot of pressure for her to perform at future races. For a long time, she didn’t enjoy swimming and competing. The 21-year-old rediscovered her passion for the sport over the past year during the pandemic. She doesn’t know what to expect in Tokyo but knows she has the same “Rio mentality” as five years ago, in large part due to her teammates.
“I wouldn’t be as fast as I am now without those girls pushing me,” Oleksiak said. “I wouldn’t want to train with anyone else.”
Finishing second and third behind Oleksiak were her HPC-Ontario teammate Kayla Sanchez (53.77), and Margaret Mac Neil, a London Aquatic Club product who has been training at HPC-Ontario, (54.02). Both of those races were under the Olympic standard time of 54.38 in the event, in which Taylor Ruck of HPC-Ontario was already provisionally nominated for one of Canada`s two individual spots in Tokyo. Sanchez qualified for nomination by winning the 50 free Monday, while Mac Neil did the same in the 100-m butterfly on night one of Trials Saturday.
Wog, a member of the University of Manitoba Bisons, opened the evening session taking care of business in the women’s 200-m breaststroke. She recorded a 2:23:40, well under the Olympic standard time of 2:25:52. This is Wog’s third event in which she’s qualified for nomination to Tokyo, along with the 100-m breaststroke and 200-m individual medley.
“I’m pretty happy with how my races went,” Wog said. “This past year and a half has been pretty crazy with training being so sporadic. It’s good to get the job done here.”
Liendo (HPC-Ontario) attacked his 100-m freestyle from the beep, getting off to an early lead. He propelled himself to gold in the event, where he recorded a personal best 48.13, underneath the Olympic standard time. The field opened up somewhat for Liendo, as 50 free champion Brent Hayden of HPC-Vancouver scratched the event earlier in the day due to back tightness, then Yuri Kisil of HPC-Ontario injured himself during warm-up just before the race and did not start.
With his win on Tuesday, Liendo capped off an incredible meet, which included a win in the 100-m butterfly, setting a new Canadian record in the 100-m butterfly preliminaries, and finishing second with a qualifying time in the 50-m freestyle.
“That race was surreal,” Liendo said. “I was a little nervous. I knew I needed to be the boss on that first 50. I’m happy how that turned out.”
In other races, 23-year-old Emily Overholt (HPC- Vancouver) won gold in the women’s 200-m butterfly, recording a 2:11:16 time. Overholt is scheduled to race on Wednesday in the 400-m individual medley, the event in which she placed fifth at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“Just to be able to race, I had some disappointing swims earlier in the meet,” Overholt said. “To come away with a win, it means a lot.”
Mack Darragh (HPC-Ontario) won the men’s 200-m butterfly at 1:58:10.
“I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t go all out for it,” Darragh said.
In other action Tuesday, 26-year-old Eli Wall (Toronto Swim Club) won the men’s 200-m breaststroke in 2:12:16.
A total of 184 swimmers from 65 clubs across the country are competing for spots on Team Canada for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that are taking place July 23 – Aug. 8. The invitation-only event includes preliminary heats and finals for all events of 200 metres in distance or shorter, with timed finals being offered for distances 400 metres and longer.
Daily preliminary heats begin at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET. Evening finals follow beginning at 5:30 p.m.
All sessions from Swimming Canada’s flagship event are streamed in English at cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices and the free CBC Gem streaming service. Additionally, CBC Sports weekly staple ROAD TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES will provide broadcast coverage on Saturday, June 26 starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on CBC TV.
NOTES: The Canadian swimming team for Tokyo 2020 will be officially announced Thursday on Swimming Canada, COC and CBC digital channels… Six swimmers were provisionally nominated by Swimming Canada’s Selection Committee earlier this year, including Kylie Masse (100m and 200m backstroke), Margaret Mac Neil (100m butterfly), Penny Oleksiak (200m freestyle), Sydney Pickrem (200m breaststroke, 200m and 400m individual medley), Taylor Ruck (100m freestyle) and Markus Thormeyer (200m backstroke).
Photo courtesy of Swimming Canada/Scott Grant
Story: Swimming Canada