Swimming Canada confirms Olympic trials in Toronto have green light
TORONTO — Canada's Olympic swim trials can proceed next month in Toronto, Swimming Canada announced Thursday.
The organization said in a release that Toronto Public Health has confirmed that the June 19-23 event can take place at the Pan Am Sports Centre under the exemption for high-performance sport in Ontario's stay-at-home order.
The trials are the primary means of selection for Canada's swim team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
They were originally scheduled for May 24-28 but were pushed back due to restrictions around the COIVD-19 pandemic.
Six swimmers were pre-selected to the Olympic team in January.
Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Penny Oleksiak of Toronto, Margaret Mac Neil of London, Ont., Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Sydney Pickrem of Halifax and Markus Thormeyer of Newmarket, Ont., were chosen in events and distances in which they excel.
The Paralympic portion of Canada's swim trials was cancelled because the June dates conflict with an international para-swimming event in Berlin.
Swimming Canada provisionally selected seven swimmers to the team on May 11 based on performances at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championship in London, and said remaining spots will be filled by reviewing training logs and data, as well as a video-recorded time trial performance, from eligible swimmers.
“The organization has explored several options, including holding the Trials elsewhere in North America. Each scenario comes with its own positive and negative factors, but we believe holding Olympic Trials in Canada, at our premier pool in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, is the best option,” Swimming Canada chief executive officer Ahmed El-Awadi said in a statement.
Swimming Canada says it is working toward a plan that will include preliminary heats and finals for distances 200 metres and shorter, with timed finals for distances 400 metres and longer.
The organization also announced a pre-Tokyo Olympics camp in Toyota, Japan has been cancelled. Instead, the team will convene in Vancouver before travelling directly to the Games in July.
“Our long-standing partners at the University of British Columbia have shown incredible flexibility and hard work on short notice to enable us to hold a staging camp in Canada,” Swimming Canada high performance director John Atkinson said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2021.
The Canadian Press
2021 Canadian Olympic Trials: Day 4 Finals Live Recap
2021 CANADIAN OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS
On the second last night of the 2021 Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials, another set of spots on the nation’s Tokyo 2020 roster will be up for grabs.
In the 200 breaststroke, Kelsey Wog will be trying to join pre-selected Sydney Pickrem in the event in Tokyo which would account for her 3rd event after qualifying for the 200 IM and 100 breast. While the 2019 World Championships bronze medalist Pickrem will race the event in Tokyo, she decided not to swim the event here in Toronto.
On the men’s side, Eli Wall threw down a solid prelim swim of 2:13.94 but will need to get down to a 2:10.35 during the finals in order to secure a spot on his first-ever Olympic squad.
In the 200 butterflies, Mackenzie Darragh and Mabel Zavaros will be in the running to qualify for their first-ever individual Olympic swims during tonight’s final after both swimming roughly 3 seconds over the respective FINA A cuts during the prelims.
The night will end with the men’s and women’s 100 freestyle which are both expected to be absolute bloodbaths for a spot on the team. In the women’s sprint, Taylor Ruck has actually already been named to the team but wound her 3rd in the prelims and will need to fight for a spot in the top 2 in order to show that that selection has paid off. Hoping to upset Ruck, 2016 Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak lead the field in a 54.00 and will be trying to get a spot on the team in the event in Tokyo. It won’t be easy for Oleksiak, however, as Kayla Sanchez, Katerine Savard, Rebecca Smith, and more will all be in the running as well.
As for the men’s event, Yuri Kisil and Ruslan Gaziev both swam under 49 seconds in the morning and will need to stay within the top 2 in order to get an individual spot on the 2020 Canadian Olympic squad. Among those also vying for the individual qualification in the 100 free will be Josh Liendo, Markus Thormeyer, Stephen Calkins, and Javier Acevedo. Missing from tonight’s final will be 2012 Olympic medalist and Tokyo 2020-qualified swimmer Brent Hayden who raced in the prelims but then scratched the final due to back troubles.
Follow along here to stay up to date on all the action as we get into night 4 of the 2021 Canadian Olympic Trials.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke – Final
- Canadian Record: 2:20.12 – Annamay Pierse (2009)
- FINA A Standard: 2:25.52
- Kelsey Wog – 2:23.40
- Kierra Smith – 2:25.73
- Avery Wiseman – 2:26.85
Kelsey Wog has added the 200 breaststroke to her event list in Tokyo. She won the event in a 2:23.40, improving on her time from prelims and dipping under the FINA A standard of 2:25.52. She touched the wall 2 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Kierra Smith. Wog previously qualified to swim the 200 IM and 100 breast in Tokyo. She will join pre-selected Sydney Pickrem in Tokyo for this event.
Wog’s time is the 14th fastest in the world this year.
Pickrem scratched the race in finals. She qualified for the Olympics at the 2019 World Championships, where she picked up a bronze medal.
Smith touched second in a time of 2:25.73, going went 4 seconds faster than in prelims. She swam the 200 breast for Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished 7th in the event in a 2:23.19. She has a personal best time of 2:22.23. She missed qualification for the 100 breast earlier in the meet, another event that she swam in Rio.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke – Final
- Canadian Record: 2:08.84 – Mike Brown (2008)
- FINA A Standard: 2:10.35
- Eli Wall – 2:12.16
- Frederik Kamminga – 2:13.91
- James Dergousoff – 2:14.05
Eli Wall dropped nearly 2 seconds from prelims to win the 200 breast in 2:12.16. That swim was 0.7 seconds off of his best time of 2:11.47 from the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He has previously competed at the 2015 FISU Summer Universiade and the 2017 FISU.
Frederik Kamminga touched second in the event. His time of 2:13.91 was a personal best by 0.87 seconds. He out-touched James Dergousoff in the final 50. Dergousoff dropped 0.5 seconds from prelims. He was the second-place finisher in the 100 breast, but will likely only swim on the 4×100 medley relay after having missed the FINA A cut.
No one in this field has ever swum at the Olympic Games. Because no one met the FINA A standard, and because no one was pre-selected in this event, Canada will not send any 200 breaststrokers to Tokyo.
Women’s 200 Butterfly – Final
- Canadian Record: 2:05.95 – Audrey Lacroix (2009)
- FINA A Standard: 2:08.43
- Emily Overholt – 2:11.16
- Mabel Zavaros – 2:12.19
- Danielle Hanus – 2:12.42
Rio Olympic medalist Emily Overholt got her hands on the wall first in the women’s 200 fly. Her time of 2:11.16 did not meet the FINA A cut of 2:08.43. She is not known for swimming fly; Overholt previously competed in the 400 free and 400 IM at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo. She finished 5th in both events. In Rio, she also finished 5th in the 400 IM and won a bronze medal as a member of the 4×200 meter relay.
Second-place went to Mabel Zavaros in a time of 2:12.19. The University of Florida swimmer was 3.48 seconds off of her best time of 2:08.71 from the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She swam the 50, 100, and 200 fly at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Indianapolis, and she won 2 gold medals as part of the women’s 4×200 free relay and the mixed 4×100 medley relay.
Canada will also not send a competitor to Tokyo in the women’s 200 fly.
Men’s 200 Butterfly – Final
- Canadian Record: 1:56.27 – Mack Darragh (2018)
- FINA A Standard: 1:56.48
- Mack Darragh – 1:58.10
- Montana Champagne – 1:59.34
- Patrick Hussey – 2:00.51
Canadian record-holder Mack Darragh finished in first with a 1:58.10. His personal best time of 1:56.27 from the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo would have easily met the FINA A standard. He swam on the 4×100 medley in Rio but did not qualify for any individual events.
Montana Champagne touched in second place, finishing in a time of 1:59.34. He was just off of his best time of 1:59.21, which he swam at the 2019 Canadian Swimming Trials.
Patrick Hussey finished third with 2:00.51. This was a huge drop for him, taking 3.5 seconds off of his previous best time from 2019. He is now ranked 30th in the all-time Canadian rankings. He previously sat at 107th.
Yu Tong Wu also took a chunk of time off of his personal best, dropping 4.5 seconds to finish 4th in a 2:00.67. The 16-year-old moved from #150 to #33 all-time among Canadians.
Women’s 100 Freestyle – Final
- Penny Oleksiak – 52.89
- Kayla Sanchez – 53.77
- Maggie MacNeil – 54.02
Rio gold-medalist Penny Oleksiak posted the third-fastest time in the world this year with a time of 52.70. She was 0.19 seconds off of her Canadian record, which she set at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She will join Taylor Ruck in Tokyo for the event. Oleksiak was already pre-selected to swim the 200 free for the Canadians.
With Simone Manuel out of the 100, Oleksiak is the only 2016 100 free champion with the opportunity to defend her title.
Kayla Sanchez finished second in a time of 53.77, just off of her best time of 53.57 set a month ago. She was under the FINA A cut but will not swim it individually, but she likely earned a spot on the 4×100 free relay. Sanchez won and qualified for Tokyo in the 50 free yesterday.
Ruck was pre-selected after placing fifth at the 2019 World Championships, going a 53.03. She touched fifth in the event tonight, with a 54.58.
Men’s 100 Freestyle – Final
- Canadian Record: 47.27 – Brent Hayden (2009)
- FINA A Standard: 48.57
- Joshua Liendo – 48.13
- Ruslan Gaziev – 48.81
- Markus Thormeyer – 49.24
Top qualifier Yuri Kisil injured his arm during warmup and had to scratch the final. He had not yet picked up a spot on the 2020 Canadian Olympic Team. This left the top spot up for grabs tonight.
Joshua Liendo dropped a second to go a best time of 48.13, touching first in the men’s 100 free. He was the only swimmer in the field to meet the FINA A standard. He swam at the 2019 World Junior Championships, where he won a silver medal in the 100 free. He has already been selected to represent Canada in the 50 free and 100 fly.
Liendo overtakes Kisil as the third-fastest Canadian of all time. Kisil’s 48.28 from Rio is now ranked 4th. He now sits at #15 in the world this year.
Silver medalist Ruslan Gaziev dropped 0.5 seconds to 48.81. He has not qualified for the Olympics but he has swum internationally at the 2017 World Junior Championships, the 2018 Pan Pacs in Tokyo, and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He has also moved up in the Canadian rankings, going from 10th to 6th.
Markus Thormeyer touched third, going a time of 49.24. He has already been selected to swim the 100 and 200 back in Tokyo. He could be chosen to swim on the 4×100 free relay. He was a member of Canada’s 4×100 free relay in Rio, when they took seventh place.
Road to Tokyo gets real for Canadian swimmers at Olympic trials
After three different attempts to get into the pool to complete the crucial Olympic swim trials, Canadian swimmers are ready for competition.
To say it's been a frustrating, anxiety-inducing and stressful journey is an understatement. Canadian swimmers, coaches and officials have spent the past 14 months navigating 14-day quarantines, ever-changing restrictions and the rescheduling of event after event.
But now they take the plunge into the deep end and begin the pressure-packed task of qualifying for Tokyo. The event runs June 19-23 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre and will be streamed live by CBC Sports.
These are no ordinary trials. They get underway about two months later than they would in a typical Olympic year when the team would have already been selected and would have had 12 to 14 weeks of preparation before a Games. There will be no fans or family to help create energy inside the venue.
And there will be hundreds of fewer athletes competing. At the last Olympic trials prior to Rio five years ago, upward of 760 athletes were competing for spots on the Canadian team. This year, there will be 185 swimmers looking to earn their ticket to Tokyo.
WATCH | Penny Oleksiak: The pressure of swimming as a champion:
Penny Oleksiak: The pressure of swimming as a champion
"It's been a roller-coaster," high performance director John Atkinson said. "The first trials were penned in for April and then pushed to May. Then the May trials were delayed to the backup date. It can have both an emotional and psychological impact on people that are involved in that.
"The big issue is what is the impact of the pandemic," Atkinson said. "We have not been together as a team since the worlds in 2019. We've done virtual calls and all the things you can do over the last 14 months."
There are so many unknowns and yet there are also great expectations. This is a swimming squad that surprised many with six medals in Rio, led by then 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak. Atkinson says the team flew under the radar then but there's no doing that now.
Canadian swimmers picked up eight medals at the 2019 world championships, and a core group of high-powered women is likely who will propel the team to any success in Tokyo.
Swimming Canada has already nominated six swimmers: Toronto's Oleksiak; world backstroke champion Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont.; world butterfly champion Margaret MacNeil of London, Ont.; Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C.; Sydney Pickrem of Halifax; and Markus Thormeyer of Newmarket, Ont.
The rest will be determined after numerous heats and finals over the five days of competition. Atkinson expects the team to consist of about 25 athletes, with anywhere from 15 to 16 of the members being women.
"I think all of our team, not just Penny, are capable of more than they've already achieved," Atkinson said.
WATCH | Pandemic may be biggest challenge between Canadian swimmers and Olympic podium:
The pandemic meant less time in the pool for Canadian swimmers: What does that mean for Tokyo?
While those six have already made the team, there's still a lot to prove and spots to earn. Atkinson says he's excited to see how the swimmers perform because it's been a long time since they've had to compete on demand.
"You have to stand up and perform on demand. I'm not talking about medals with anyone," he said. "I'm talking about improving and progressing."
But he cautions there are always expectations of success.
"We're not going there to take part. We're going there to win medals. But the process is always about improving."
Atkinson credits the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games — when Canadian fans packed the venue and watched Canadian swimmers haul in medals — as a turning point for the program. The energy in the building during that event triggered a swagger and confidence leading into Rio.
There won't be a familiar energy in that same venue for these trials, but Atkinson says the team culture is as good as it's ever been, rooted in a number of different principles.
"Professional. Focused. Relaxed. Adaptable," he said. "And no drama."
No drama, but Atkinson wants to see dramatic and dynamic performances. The bright lights of the sporting world are now fixed on Canadian swimmers after their coming out party in Rio. It's something this team is ready to embrace.
"There will be joy and excitement. We'll be moving forward together to take on the world," he said.
The long wait is over for Canada’s top swimmers.
The Olympic swim trials start Saturday in Toronto’s Pan Am Sports Centre after cancellation in 2020 and a pair of postponements in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now that trials is finally happening, it’s really exciting right now,” backstroker Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., said.
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The five-day trials without spectators conclude Wednesday, which is a month out from the July 23 opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Swimmers collected six medals in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, which accounted for almost a third of Canada’s 22 medals there.
Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak led the charge with freestyle gold and butterfly silver at age 16. She also anchored the women’s freestyle relay teams to a pair of bronze medals.
Just over 180 swimmers were invited from 64 clubs to race for spots on the 2021 Olympic team under pandemic protocols and restrictions at the Pan Am Sports Centre.
The top two finishers in each event, who must also swim ‘A’ qualifying times, earn the right to race in Tokyo.
Swimming Canada high-performance director John Atkinson predicts a team of roughly 25 swimmers will be named next week.
Athletes and their coaches, and Swimming Canada, ran a pandemic gauntlet to these trials dating back to 2020.
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The swimmers were at a final staging camp in Florida for April trials when COVID-19 descended upon the world and ultimately postponed the 2020 Tokyo Games to 2021.
This year’s trials in April were postponed to May and again to June as Ontario grappled with high rates of infection.
A post-trials qualifying meet scheduled for June, which would have given swimmers another chance to make the team, was scrapped.
“We had to get to grips with what we were going to do for the trials scheduled for April, then delayed to May and then we had a final qualifier that became the trials,” Atkinson said.
“For the athletes, who I feel for the most, the coaches, [there is] a lot of psychological stress, mental stress and physical stress issues when you’re under continual stress for a long period of time.
“In talking with athletes and talking with coaches, they were just desperate for some sort of certainty.”
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Swimming Canada invoked an unforeseen circumstances clause in January to nominate a half-dozen athletes in events in which they excel: Oleksiak, Thormeyer, world champion backstroker Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., world champion butterflyer Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla.
Oleksiak was pre-selected to race the 200 freestyle in Tokyo, but must race the 100 at trials to qualify in it.
With virtually no races in a 50-metre pool for months, the pre-selected swimmers are expected to get on the start blocks in their Olympic events at trials to shake off race rust.
“Training that long is pretty hard because usually you have the excitement of competing every couple months where you can see how the changes you made in training have transferred into racing or just see how fit you are, or just trying to work on specific race strategies,” Thormeyer said.
“Not having that, it can stress you out if you get to trials and you haven’t had a long-course race in 15 months.”
CBC will livestream all heats and finals. To make the atmosphere less sterile, clubs were invited to send their banners for display on the pool deck.
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People can record cheers for a specific swimmer on Swimming Canada’s website that will be added to canned crowd noise. Winning athletes will be provided virtual calls with family and friends after their races.
The Paralympic portion of trials was cancelled because rescheduling to June conflicted with an international para-swimming event in Berlin.
Eight swimmers, including triple Paralympic gold medallist Aurelia Rivard, qualified for Tokyo by winning medals at the 2019 world championship.
Seven who made world finals were added to the team in May and the remaining four were chosen this month based on training data and video time trials.
Canadian swimmers faced unprecedented challenges on the road to Tokyo, but Atkinson says it’s time to put the stress aside and race.
“You will stand on the block, you will race down the middle of your 50-metre lane and turn and come back to the wall, and that’s all the same,” he said.
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“What’s going on around it, yes, is going to be different, but the blocks the same, the water’s the same and you’re in a great pool, the legacy pool from the Pan Am Games.
“You’re in it and you’ve got a chance.”
Canada trials swimming olympic
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