An illegal kick cost Canada a top-six finish in the women's 4x100-metre relay at the world swimming championships Saturday.

The United States, led by Rebecca Soni, won gold in a time of three minutes 52.36 seconds, not far off the world mark of 3:52.19 that China set in Rome in 2009 before high-tech bodysuits were banned.

The Chinese finished second in 3:55.61, while Australia took bronze in 3:57.13.

The Canadians initially thought they had tied Britain for sixth, but officials ruled Calgary's Jillian Tyler performed a double fly kick off the wall during the breastroke leg of the race. Swimmers are only allowed one kick.

That meant heartbreak for the team of Tyler, Sinead Russell of Oakville, Ont., Quebec City's Katerine Savard and Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont.

Swimming Canada CEO and head coach Pierre Lafontaine said he agreed with the call but wondered why a similar infraction by Tyler in the preliminary round went unnoticed.

"We went through the race analysis right after they got disqualified," Lafontaine said on a conference call. "Not only did [Tyler] do the double fly kick, but we went back to look at other races and she did one on [Saturday] morning too.

"The discussion [with officials] was 'Why was the call not made this morning, but was made tonight?"'

Lafontaine said the good news for Canada is the country's time in the preliminary round still stands as the seventh-best in the world this year to date.

Meanwhile, Victoria's Ryan Cochrane earned a spot in Sunday's final of the men's 1,500-metre freestyle.

Cochrane clocked 14:55.86 for the fifth fastest time to stay in contention for a second medal at the championships. He won the silver in the 800-metre freestyle and was also fifth in the 400-metre freestyle.

"I'm happy to get in the final and I think it'll be that much better hearing the crowd and being in the excitement of a final," said Cochrane, the Olympic bronze medallist in the event.

In semifinal swims Saturday, Winnipeg's Chantal Van Landeghem and Montreal's Victoria Poon ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in theĀ eomen's 50-metre freestyle and did not advance. Montreal's Charles Francis was 16th in the men's 50-metre backstroke semifinal.

Van Landeghem had qualified seventh from the preliminary round. The 17-year-old is one of the many emerging young Canadian stars on this year's team. In 2009, Canada had 24 top-16 results. Going into the final day of competition in 2011, that number stands at 33.

"It's a very exciting situation for us," Lafontaine said of the Canadian youth movement. "But there is still a lot of work ahead. The investments we have made in the youth development programs are really starting to pay off. But this progress would not be possible without the leadership of our veterans as well."