Canadian athletes returning home after two weeks of action at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary will bring with them medals, new national records and valuable experience at a high-stakes competition ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Here’s a look at the most notable performances by Canadians at the aquatics worlds.
Kylie Masse led all Canadians — swimmers or otherwise — at the aquatics worlds, scoring the country’s lone world title and setting a new world record to boot in the 100-metre backstroke final, and breaking six Canadian records. That gold was also the first at a world championships by a Canadian swimmer since 2007. Kylie Masse: Made in Canada Masse was also a part of the mixed relay teams that won a pair of bronze medals.
One day after making history, Masse, along with Edmonton’s Richard Funk, Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak and Calgary’s Yuri Kisil combined to finish in a tie for third place in the mixed 4×100-metre medley relay. Masse, Oleksiak and Kisil teamed up once again, this time with Javier Acevedo, for bronze in the 4×100 freestyle. The final day of competition also featured a bronze medal in the 400m IM and a little bit of redemption for Sydney Pickrem.
The swimmer owns the Canadian record in the 200 IM, but failed to finish that event in Budapest, jumping out of the pool at the end of the first leg after swallowing too much water.
“As much as I felt like I disappointed Canada in my 200 IM, to come back and be able to get on the podium, it’s just a relief and really exciting,” Pickrem told CBC Sports. “I’m proud to be Canadian and do that for Canada.”
Though Oleksiak reached the podium twice in the relays, the Olympic star leaves Budapest without an individual medal. She finished sixth in the 100m freestyle after winning a gold medal in that event last summer in Rio.
Jennifer Abel now stands alone as the most decorated Canadian women’s diver of all time at the world championships, and played a big role in each of Canada’s diving medals at this year’s event.
The native of Laval, Que. captured a bronze medal in her individual springboard event, a silver with Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu in the women’s synchro three-metre and finished with a bronze in the mixed synchro three-metre with Francois Imbeau-Dulac.
Abel now has eight world championship medals, the most for a Canadian woman in the sport of diving. It also matches retired Olympian Alexandre Despatie, who won eight medals on the men’s side. It wasn’t all about the veterans, however. Nathan Zsombor-Murray made his worlds debut at the ripe old age of 14, and looked right at home. He and his partner Meaghan Benfeito, 28, finished fifth in the 10m mixed synchro.
The Canadian women’s water polo team came up just short in their quest to bring home a medal from worlds, advancing to the semifinals before falling to Spain and then Russia in the bronze-medal match.
On the men’s side, Canada failed to win a match in the group phase but did manage a tie with Brazil.
The Canadian synchronized swimming team left Hungary without a podium finish, missing their final chance to win world championship medals handed out in synchronized swimming.
Don’t worry, the sport isn’t going away — it will now be referred to by FINA as “artistic swimming.”
Canada’s open water swimming team did not get to the podium in the individual races, but they did get to participate in world aquatics history.
Richard Weinberger, Stephanie Horner, Eric Hedlin and Breanne Siwicki completed FINA’s first-ever team relay in 11th place. France took the honour of being the first country to win gold in the event.
Mark Perry, Swimming Canada’s distance/open water coach, was satisfied with his team’s performance as they work towards the next Olympic Games.
“I think that was a fitting finale for the team. It was a great team performance,” he said. “We leave Hungary with things each of the six swimmers know they need to improve and work on. As an overall Canadian team, we’ve got things to work on to come back stronger and faster in the years leading into Tokyo.”
Canada looked to have a great shot at a medal — and even a world title — in high diving, but an injury to the country’s top star dashed those hopes. Lysanne Richard, a 2016 World Cup champion and FINA female high diver of the year, announced her withdrawal due to a neck issue she’s been dealing with since June of 2016.
Despite trying multiple avenues to be ready for the world championships, she was not cleared by her doctor. “I am extremely disappointed to miss the world championships. I was looking forward to representing Canada, but an injury is currently preventing me from competing,” she told CBC Sports.