Canadians Kisil, Liendo book spots in Olympic freestyle swimming semis

Young Canadian swimmers Yuri Kisil and Joshua Liendo have qualified 10th and 14th, respectively, for the men's 100-metre freestyle semifinals on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET. They finished fourth earlier at the Tokyo Olympics in the 4x100 relay final.

Duo also helped set national relay record in Tokyo; U.S. star Dressel qualifies 2nd

Canadians Yuri Kisil, left, and Joshua Liendo, right, have advanced to the 100-metre freestyle semifinals on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Earlier at the Tokyo Olympics, they helped set a national record in the men's 4x100 relay final. (Reuters/Getty Images)

Yuri Kisil and Joshua Liendo are eyeing individual Olympic swimming medals in Tokyo after setting a Canadian record in the men's 100-metre relay.

On Tuesday, they qualified 10th and 14th, respectively, for the men's 100-metre freestyle semifinals at 9:30 p.m. ET. The eight-man final is Wednesday at 10:37 p.m. ET at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Nicknamed "The Missile," Kisil made up ground in the final half of his heat race Tuesday, particularly in the final 25 metres, to finish third in a personal-best 48.15 seconds.

"My relay [performance] and time this morning show that I have more that I can improve upon and be faster in the semis," Kisil told Swimming Canada.

"I've always been kind of known for being a really good back-half swimmer for the 100 free, so that's the area where I like to shine, for sure," the 25-year-old told the Calgary Sun recently.

"I feel it's the race that everyone strives to watch. Obviously, it puts a little more pressure on, but I enjoy the eyes on me."

The 2017 world double medallist has fully recovered after banging his arm on a concrete bleacher ahead of the 100 final at Canadian Olympic trials last month in Toronto, where he missed out qualifying for the 50 free in Tokyo.

On Sunday night in Canada, the Calgary native did help the men to a fourth-place finish in the 4x100 final in a national record 3:10.82.

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Liendo also racing butterfly, 50m freestyle

In 2016, the six-foot-six Kisil swam the second leg of the Canadian relay team that placed seventh at the Rio Olympics but he didn't make 100 free final, placing 10th.

The 18-year-old Liendo clocked 48.34 to advance to the semifinal field of 16 in Tokyo, slightly slower than his winning 48.13 from trials in becoming Canada's third fastest man in the history of the 100 free.

"I was focused on having a good start and have a go on the first 50," said Liendo. "I would have liked to bring it back better on the second 50 but I'm happy with the way I executed it. It was really great to have that first relay to start to have a chance to go through it."

The first-time Olympian is also expected to compete in heats for the 100 butterfly and 50 on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively (Thursday and Friday morning in Canada).

On the opening day of trials, the Markham, Ont., native set a national record of 51.40 in the fly in heats before winning the event in 51.72 at the Pan Am Sport Centre to clinch a spot for Tokyo.

Liendo, who enjoys fantasy football and playing standup double bass, cello, and guitar away from the pool, was named 2019 male junior swimming of the year by Swimming Canada after winning a world silver medal in 100 free and relay bronze with the men's and mixed 4x100 teams.

Dressel could join select company

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Caleb Dressel, who led the Americans to 4x100 gold over Kisel and Liendo, finished second overall to Italy's Thomas Ceccon in Tuesday's 100 free heats. Dressel appeared to lose momentum near the 50-metre mark and didn't seem to be pressing until late in his heat race.

Hailed as the successor to U.S. Olympic swim legend Michael Phelps, Dressel swam the first leg of the relay in 47.26 and gave his team a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

The 24-year-old Florida native is set for a schedule of three individual events and three more relays in Tokyo. Dressel has yet to win an individual Olympic medal but should the sprinting sensation win all his events in Japan, he would become the fourth swimmer to win seven, joining Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi and Phelps, who holds the single-Games record of eight.

Oleksiak chasing Canadian Olympic history 

Penny Oleksiak in the women's 200 free final (9:41 p.m. ET) and Sydney Pickrem )10:45 p.m. ET) in the women's 200 individual medley final are the other Canadians in action Tuesday.

The 21-year-old Oleksiak is vying for her sixth Olympic medal, the most by any Canadian athlete at the Summer Games. The Toronto resident won four medals in her first Olympics in 2016 — one gold, one silver and two bronze — and anchored the women's 4x100 freestyle relay team to silver earlier in these Games.

Pickrem advanced to the 200 IM final with a 2:09.94 clocking after going 2:10.13 in the heats. Her personal best is 2:08.61 from June 1, 2019.

The 24-year-old returned to the pool on Monday after withdrawing from the women's 400 IM over the weekend due to illness unrelated to COVID-19.

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Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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