LONDON – After a solid start to the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships on Monday and Tuesday, the Canadian team shifted into high gear on Day 3 with an impressive medal and record haul, highlighted by Aly Van Wyck-Smart’s Americas mark in the women’s 100-m backstroke S2.
The championships, which also serve as the first qualifying opportunity for Tokyo 2020, run until Sunday at the London Aquatics Centre, one of the main venues of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Webcast is available on the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Swimming Canada Facebook Live platforms, with finals streamed on CBC Sports.
Overall, the Canadian delegation ended Day 3 with three silver medals and one bronze, one Americas and three national records, three athletes (silver medallists) who earned nominations to the Canadian Paralympic Committee to represent the country next summer in Tokyo, and a fourth (bronze medallist) who put himself in the frame for nomination to the CPC when the final team size is announced early in the new year.
In the 100-m back S2, Van Wyck-Smart broke the Canadian and Americas standards for the second time in just over a month. In her maiden world championship race, the 16-year-old from Toronto clocked a 2:39.27 to better the time of 2:41.98 she posted on Aug. 9 at the Canadian Championships in Winnipeg.
The only swimmer who managed to beat her to the wall was Singapore’s Yip Pin Xiu, the reigning Paralympic champion and world record holder.
“It feels absolutely amazing. I’m so excited,” said Van Wyck-Smart, who trains at Variety Village Aquatic Club with coach Ryan Jones. “All the hard work that I put in with my coaches is paying off. I couldn’t be happier.”
Wayne Lomas, Swimming Canada’s Associate Director of High Performance and Para Swimming National Coach, was thrilled for the national team rookie.
“I could not be more excited for Aly and coach Jones. Under the guidance of coach Janet Dunn, Swimming Canada has invested significantly in building and developing our pool of talented swimmers and coaches in the S1 – S5 sport class. Aly and Ryan are testament to the importance of a strategic and targeted development program.”
Other Canadian medallists on Wednesday evening included Tess Routliffe of Caledon, Ont., who claimed silver in the women’s 100-m breaststroke SB7, Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., second in the women’s 400-m freestyle S10, and Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., who captured bronze in the men’s 400-m free S10.
In the women’s 100-m breast SB7, Routliffe posted a 1:32.39 to lower London 2019 teammate Abi Tripp’s national mark of 1:32.51. She had established her own previous best, 1:32.71, at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.
Tripp, who hails from Kingston, Ont., also made the final on Wednesday, finishing fifth in 1:37.63.
“I’m thrilled with my race. It really couldn’t have gone better. I’m ecstatic for that Canadian record, excited for that best time. I really like the breaststroke, I’m having a lot of fun with it,” said Routliffe, a 2016 Paralympic silver medallist in the 200-m IM who trains at Montreal’s High Performance Centre – Quebec with coach Mike Thompson. “I think I was just being myself tonight. I’m competitive and I like racing people, and I used the people beside me to push myself even further.”
“There were so many great swims today and tonight, but I want to pay special credit to Tess, who was able to call on all of her experience and focus on the process that she and coach Mike have worked on,” said Lomas. “To swim a lifetime best and win a medal in a world championship final is testament to Tess’s professionalism, focus and talent.”
Forty-eight hours after claiming her 10th career world championship medal, gold in the 50-m freestyle, Rivard was hoping to add a fourth world title to her resume in the women’s 400-m free S10 but was edged by Poland’s Oliwia Jablonska, who flirted with the Canadian’s world record (4:29.27) to prevailed in 4:29.65, a championship mark. Rivard was right behind in 4:30.42.
“Aurélie gave everything tonight in a brilliant race, demonstrating again her fighting spirit, her tenacity, her commitment to excellence and pride in representing Canada,” said Lomas.
In the men’s 400-m free S10 final, Elliot made up ground in the second half of the race to take bronze in 4:08.34. The 2016 Paralympian was overjoyed to reach his first world championship podium after taking fourth place the night before in the 200-m IM.
“The entire race strategy was to stay close in the first 200 and, exactly like in training, finish the final 200 really strong. Once I took the lead for third place I wasn’t letting anything take it back,” said the 23-year-old from Club Rouge et Or in Quebec City, who was fifth after the first length of the pool and fourth at the 250-m mark but moved into third place with 100 metres to go. “It just feels amazing to have this first world championship medal.”
“On a night when racing was important, Alex showed that great composure to stick to his race plan and win his first ever international medal,” said Lomas. “In a race that was led out in 56 seconds, it took great maturity as a racer to not panic and change strategy. Alex’s skills off the turns plus his fitness saw him through and his bronze medal for Canada was an appropriate reward.”
Also in finals on Wednesday evening were Moncton’s Danielle Dorris and Calgary’s Morgan Bird, who placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the women’s 100-m butterfly S8.
Dorris, another 16-year-old worlds rookie, broke her own Canadian record in the morning prelims with a 1:16.42 swim, before posting a time of 1:17.13 in the final.
Bird followed in 1:20.87.
“In the morning, I felt great right from the start and I thought ‘Ok, cool, let’s go with it’. And then that time happened. I was just extremely happy. Training had been going really well, and I guess the hard work paid off,” said Dorris, who trains at Club de natation Bleu et Or with coach Ryan Allen. “Tonight, the race was very similar to this morning. Of course I would have loved to go as fast, but I still went under my old PB, so I’m very happy with it.”
Two other Canadians were also in action on Day 2.
Justine Morrier of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, placed 11th in the women’s 100-m breaststroke SB14 preliminaries with a time of 1:25.86.
In the women’s 150-m individual medley SM4, Nikita Ens of Meadow Lake, Sask., who holds the Canadian SM3 record, was 13th in 4:45.43 in her first career race at worlds.
The 2019 World Para Swimming Championships resume Thursday with preliminaries starting at 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) and finals at 6 p.m. (1 p.m. ET).
Webcast link: https://www.facebook.com/SwimmingCanada/