Young Canadian swimming talent reserves spots in Tokyo at Olympic trials
TORONTO – Joshua Liendo and Cole Pratt are no longer next generation swimmers. The 18-year-olds will make their Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.
TORONTO – Joshua Liendo and Cole Pratt are no longer next generation swimmers.
The 18-year-olds will make their Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo. The two teenagers earned their spots on the Canadian team during Saturday’s practice at the Pan Am Sports Center in Toronto.
“There are a lot of guys coming in and I think we’re not NextGen anymore. We’re here,” Liendo said.
“I saw a lot of guys from other countries who are 18 years old making the Olympic team and that motivated me. I want to be there too.”
Liendo of Markham, Ont., Won the men’s 100-meter butterfly in the qualifying time needed to earn the nomination to the Olympic team.
Pratt of Calgary faced Markus Thormeyer of Delta, BC, in the men’s 100-meter backstroke for second in qualifying time. The two men crossed the threshold to carry the maple leaf to Tokyo.
“What I was trying to do today and what my friend Josh was doing a few years ago we were treated like the young kids on the team,” said Pratt.
“I just wanted to show people, and Josh too, that we’re not 16-year-old boys anymore and we’re here to do business.
“I think we’ll continue that for the rest of the competition and into the summer.”
The 2020 swim trials have been canceled with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s trials originally scheduled for April in Toronto were postponed to May and again to June as Ontario grappled with cases of infection.
The five-day trials, featuring 185 swimmers from 64 clubs across the country, take place under pandemic protocols and restrictions and are the primary means of selecting Canada’s Olympic swim team.
The Tokyo Olympics open on July 23 and end on August 8.
Canada can send a maximum of two swimmers per event per gender, but in addition to finishing in the top two in trials, it is necessary to race under the qualifying time “A” established by the World Governing Body FINA.
Pandemic challenges prompted Swimming Canada to invoke an unforeseen circumstance clause in January and name six athletes early in the events in which they excel.
Thormeyer was shortlisted in the men’s 200 backstroke with Penny Oleksiak of Toronto, World Backstroke Champion Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., World Butterfly Champion Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, Colombia -British, and Sydney Pickrem from Clearwater, Florida
Masse is the reigning world champion in the 100 backstroke, as is Mac Neil in the 100 butterfly.
Both women were assured of being registered in Tokyo in these events, but the two took to the start on Saturday to take advantage of the race representatives they were missing due to the pandemic.
“For me it was just about getting up there and running,” Mac Neil said. “Tonight it definitely made me feel more real than in the last five months. I’m definitely more excited as July approaches.”
Masse broke his own Canadian record with a time of 57.70 to win the backstroke ahead of finalist Ruck, who secured an Olympic berth in the discipline.
Regan Smith of the United States holds the world record of 57.57 seconds.
“Without having to compete for a while and seeing the rest of the world being normal, or being more normal than us, it was really frustrating,” Masse said.
Maybe, subconsciously, it was kind of like ‘hey, we swim fast here in Canada too’, but that wasn’t my motivation at all.
“I just wanted to be as quick as possible and tried to break that 58 (seconds) barrier and that personal best of 2017. I was really happy to do it here tonight.”
Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., Finished second behind Mac Neil in the butterfly to qualify for her third Olympic team.
Savard, 28, won bronze in the Olympic relay in 2016 swimming the first stage for Canada in the 4 x 200 freestyle.
“I dreamed of going to the Olympics for the third time,” said Savard. “This year has been one of my best years. I’m really happy with what I’m seeing in the pool right now.”
Torontonian Kate Sanderson also qualified for the Olympic team on Saturday in Setubal, Portugal, where she finished third in a 10 kilometer open water race.
Trials continue on Sunday in Toronto with the men’s and women’s 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 19, 2021.
The Canadian Press