Canadian women just miss podium in 4x200m freestyle relay

The foursome of Summer McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the women's 4x200-metre freestyle relay Thursday morning in Tokyo.

Foursome sets a Canadian record, but medallists swim world-record times

Canada's Summer McIntosh, right, reaches out to teammate Penny Oleksiak at the end of the women's 4x200-metre final Thursday at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Sometimes even the best performances just aren't good enough to step onto an Olympic podium.

The Canadian swimmers learned that the hard way Thursday morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. It took three world record-breaking times to win a medal in the women's 4x200-metre freestyle relay. 

Despite Summer McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak setting a Canadian record with a time of seven minutes, 43.77 seconds, the foursome finished fourth.

"I think we're definitely disappointed we missed the podium but we knew it would be a tough race," Oleksiak said. "The other three teams kind of just came out of nowhere with that. They were really fast. A lot of them were really rested."

WATCH | Canada 4th behind world-record-setting China:

Penny Oleksiak felt the weight of swimming as an Olympic champion

2 years ago
After becoming an Olympic champion in Rio, Oleksiak carried the pressures of expectation. Now 4 years later, she is using her experience (and tips from none other than Michael Phelps) to push herself forward, instead of pulling herself back.

China won gold, lowering the world record to 7:40.33. The Americans, on the back of a remarkable anchor performance by Katie Ledecky, grabbed silver with a time of 7:40.73. Australia finished in the bronze position, stopping the clock at 7:41.29, more than two seconds faster than the Canadians. All three beat the previous world record of 7:41.50.

"We all swam the best we could and that's all you can really ask for," Oleksiak said. "You can't be disappointed with a Canadian record. You can't get all the medals all the time."

Fourteen-year-old Summer McIntosh, from Toronto, is one of the youngest swimmers in Canadian history to be competing at the Games. She set a Canadian age-group record on Thursday in the relay, swimming the opening leg in a time of 1:55.74.

"I'm happy with not just my performance but the whole team's performance," she said. "I'm just so proud of these girls. I train with them every day. They're like my second family and they are so supportive."

Sanchez, of Toronto, had high praise for McIntosh after the race, interrupting her in the middle of speaking to the media when McIntosh was talking about her performance.

[Her time of] 1:55.74 for a 14-year-old is no joke. That is insanity.- Kayla Sanchez on teen teammate Summer McIntosh

"[Her time of] 1:55.74 for a 14-year-old is no joke. That is insanity. Really proud of her," Sanchez said.

McIntosh, who is still scheduled to swim the 800 freestyle, showed great appreciation for what her teammates have taught her in Tokyo thus far.

"They've been through this before. Big meets. They know what to expect and they've taken care of me and helped me prepare," McIntosh said."They inspire me so much to be the best I can be."

The missed podium ends the medal streak at the pool for the Canadian women. Coming into the event Canadian women had won medals at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre for four consecutive days.

Oleksiak was looking to become the most decorated Olympian by winning her seventh medal. A day earlier, Oleksiak tied speed skaters Clara Hughes (she won two as a cyclist) and Cindy Klassen for the most medals won by Canadian Olympians with six. Rowing's Lesley Thompson-Willie and track and field's Phil Edwards have five each in the Summer Olympics.

McIntosh was looking for her first medal, while Smith and Sanchez were looking for their second after winning silver in the women's 4x100-metre freestyle relay with Oleksiak earlier in these Olympics.

WATCH | Penny Oleksiak felt the weight of expectation:

There were three lineup changes for the Canadians Thursday morning in the final. A night earlier, Katerine Savard, Smith, Mary-Sophie Harvey and Sydney Pickrem placed second in their heat and fourth overall in 7:51.52.

Oleksiak is back in the pool on Friday morning in Tokyo, looking to defend Olympic gold in the women's 100m freestyle final. The toll of all these swims is certainly weighing on her. 

"It's not as easy as when I was 16. I get a lot more lactic acid. I definitely felt bad in that race but I wanted to put my best foot forward for them," she said, adding her tonic for recovery is: "Recover. Ice baths. Chill. Sleep."


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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