Canadian swimmers broke a national record for podium appearances at a single world championships with two more medals on Friday.
And 19-year-old Josh Liendo was at the heart of both.
After capturing individual bronze in the men’s 100-metre butterfly, Liendo led off the 4×100 mixed freestyle relay team that won silver, giving Canada its ninth medal (two gold, four silver, three bronze) in Budapest, Hungary.
“This puts into context what a great team it is,” said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s Director, High Performance and National Coach. “And how the coaches, athletes and staff support each other through getting the best performance for the team.”
Penny Oleksiak, already Canada’s most decorated Olympian ever, also matched the country’s individual record at worlds with her eighth career podium appearance after racing the anchor leg of the relay. The total ties Ryan Cochrane, who competed at worlds five times.
“I honestly didn’t even know that,” said Oleksiak. “Being on this team is such a privilege. It’s awesome to be a part of it and accomplish things like that.”
All eight of the Toronto native’s medals (two silver, six bronze) have come in relays, where she showed her prowess once again.
| Oleksiak anchors Canada to silver medal:
After Liendo got the Canadians off to a third-place start, Javier Acevedo and Kayla Sanchez ensured the team stayed there for its closer in the non-Olympic event.
“The relay was the highlight for me,” Liendo said of his third final of the day. “The atmosphere and how the girls swam the back end. I did what I could, I was tired and it paid off well as the others stepped up and did a great job. It was a fun night.”
Oleksiak, 22, provided her trademark finishing kick, overtaking American counterpart Claire Curzan to push Canada into the silver medal with a national-record time of three minutes 20.61 seconds.
“I just had to put faith in the back half of my race,” said Oleksiak. “For a while I’ve been working on the front and almost neglected the back. But recently I’ve got it going again. I just tried to move us up as fast as I could.”
Australia won gold in a world-record time of 3:19.38, while the U.S. settled for bronze in 3:21.09.
| Relay team on record-setting race:
Liendo, who also took bronze in the 100 butterfly, will stand on his third podium of the meet.
He took a page out of Oleksiak’s book en route to his latest bronze medal. The Markham, Ont., native touched the 50-metre mark in fourth place, but saved his best for last.
His split time in the back half of the race only trailed gold medallist Kristof Milak of Hungary and silver medallist Naoki Mizunuma of Japan.
Liendo’s time of 50.97 seconds was also just three one-hundredths back of Mizunuma. Milak dominated the entire race and flirted with the world record before winning gold in 50.14 seconds.
“I was fighting through all my races tonight but the 100 fly felt pretty good,” said Liendo. “I swam my race.”
| Liendo bursts to bronze in 100m butterfly:
Just over 30 minutes before the 100 butterfly, Liendo missed out on another potential medal by just 0.04 seconds, placing fifth in the 50 freestyle.
The Canadian qualified with the third-fastest time at 21.73 seconds, and improved to 21.61 seconds in the final.
Yet he was left on the outside looking in, as Benjamin Proud of the U.K. won gold in 21.32 seconds, American Michael Andrew scored silver in 21.41 seconds and France’s Maxime Grousset snuck into the bronze-medal position at 21.57 seconds.
Canada could extend its medal record on the final day of swimming competition Saturday when 15-year-old Summer McIntosh, who already has a medal of each colour, swims the women’s 400 individual medley while Canada’s men’s and women’s 4×100 medley relay teams compete as well.
Live coverage begins at 12:05 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
Masse falls short
Meanwhile, Kylie Masse fell short in her bid for a third medal in Hungary that would have eventually tied her with Oleksiak with eight on her career.
Masse, who won silver in the 200 backstroke at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fifth in the discipline and well off the podium in a time of two minutes eight seconds.
The 26-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., started among the leaders, touching after the first 50 metres in third place. But she continually slowed from there, even falling from fourth into fifth during the final length in the pool.
“I was just focusing on beating my times from semis and prelims,” said Masse. “What everyone else swims is out of my control. I was focusing on myself and trying to put together a good race. I definitely died a bit at the end. I feel that’s a matter of a long week and just trying to manage it all.”
Australia’s Kaylee McKeown won gold in 2:05.08, while Americans Phoebe Bacon and Rhyan White took silver and bronze in 2:05.12 and 2:06.96, respectively.
It’ll still go down as a successful worlds for Masse, who won her first career gold medal in the 50 backstroke and took silver in the 100 backstroke.
| The significance of Lane 4:
Alvarez out of competition
Anita Alvarez, the American artistic swimmer who was rescued by her coach after fainting in the pool on Thursday, did not participate in the team event on Friday.
FINA, the sport’s governing body, said “she should not compete” in light of the incident.
“The health and safety of athletes must always come first. While FINA understands why this decision will have been disappointing to the athlete, it was a decision that was made with her best interests in mind.”
The American team doctor had said she was “very confident” Alvarez would have been OK to compete.
| Swimmer saved by U.S. coach after fainting in pool:
Elsewhere, the Canadian men’s water polo team was conditionally removed from the tournament after multiple positive COVID-19 tests.
The team could return to play in the seeding brackets on Monday, barring further positive tests and provided the isolation period of affected athletes is completed.
Canada’s women’s water polo team dropped an 11-7 decision to Olympic bronze medallist Hungary on Friday to fall to 1-1-1.
Hayley McKelvey of North Delta, B.C., scored three goals and Montreal’s Axelle Crevier scored twice for Canada, with Toronto’s Verica Bakoc and Kyra Christmas of High River, Alta., contributing single goals.
Canada’s women face the Netherlands on Sunday in a round-of-16 match.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.