Road To The Olympic Games

Aquatics·WORLD AQUATICS

Canadian women swimmers set national mark, win bronze in 4x100m freestyle relay

Strong middle legs by Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck propelled the Canadian women's 4x100-metre freestyle relay team to a bronze medal and national record Sunday on Day 1 of swimming at the world aquatics championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Performance more than 1 second faster than 2016 Olympic bronze-medal effort

Penny Oleksiak, right, and her teammates eye their Canadian-record time of 3:31.78 for a bronze medal in the women's 4x100-metre freestyle relay on Sunday at the world aquatics championships in Gwangju, South Korea. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Strong middle legs by Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck propelled the Canadian women's 4x100-metre freestyle relay team to a bronze medal and national record Sunday on Day 1 of swimming at the world aquatics championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Oleksiak and Ruck posted a time of three minutes 31.78 seconds to lead Canada's 4x100 relay team its first medal at the event since 1978.

WATCH | Women shatter Canadian relay record in 4x100 freestyle:

Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck posted a time of three minutes 31.78 seconds to lead Canada's 4x100 relay team its first medal at the event since 1978. 6:18

Sunday's performance was over two seconds faster than last year's Commonwealth Games silver showing and more than a second quicker than Canada's bronze-medal effort of 3:32.89 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Oleksiak and her teammates also secured a spot for Canada in the event at next summer's Olympics in Tokyo.

'We're progressing year by year'

"That was incredible," MacNeil, who anchored the teen foursome to victory, told Swimming Canada. "I was hoping they'd give me a strong enough lead that I could hold on as best I could. It's really an honour to do this with these girls and I'm so proud of what we did tonight."

Sanchez opened with a 53.72-second split and Oleksiak then posted a 52.69, which put Canada in the lead.

"It's great to get on the podium with a group of young women, three being aged 19 and Kayla Sanchez being 18. We're progressing year by year," added Swimming Canada high performance director and national coach John Atkinson

Australia won in a championships-record time of 3:30.21, followed by the United States in 3:31.02.

WATCH | Taylor Ruck beems with pride after eclipsing national relay record:

CBC's Sophia Jurksztowicz speaks with Canada's 4x100m women's relay team after winning bronze at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea. 0:58

MacNeil, 19, also qualified second for the women's 100 butterfly final on Monday at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center. Her personal-best time of 56.52 was just 6-100ths of a second off Oleksiak's Canadian record from her silver-medal winning performance in Rio. Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom sits first at 56.29.

Canada's Pickrem in 200 IM final

Sydney Pickrem of Canada advanced to Monday's 200 individual medley final with a 2:08.83 clocking.

Pickrem, who lowered her national record time to 2:08.61 at the FINA Champions Swim Series in Indianapolis on June 1, took a few glances at 2012 Olympic champion Ye Shiwen of China on her left, then buried her head for a strong finish on the freestyle.

Only Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who swam in the other semifinal, was faster (2:07.17) than the 22-year-old Pickrem, who was born in Florida and holds dual citizenship.

"The first day of any world championships or Olympics is an important day to set the tone for the rest of the championships," Atkinson said. "With the women's 100 butterfly and 200 IM, we had two athletes in Maggie MacNeil and Sydney Pickrem through to the final tomorrow in a good position to work on converting what they've done today."

Winnipeg's Kelsey Wog was 15th in 2:12.96 following a personal-best 2:10.54 in her preliminary heat.

Other Canadian results Sunday:

Katie Ledecky falls to Ariarne Titmus in 400 free

Ariarne Titmus of Australia chased down Katie Ledecky over the last lap to win the 400 freestyle and deny the American star a record fourth straight title. It was Ledecky's first defeat in the event at a major international meet since 2013.

"This stings a little," said Ledecky, a 14-time world champion and  five-time Olympic gold medallist. "It's not what I'm used to."

WATCH | Titmus upsets Ledecky:

The 18-year-old from Australia edged 14-time world champion Katie Ledecky of the USA to capture gold in the women's 400m freestyle. 5:08

Titmus overcame a 0.62-second deficit going into the last lap and won by 1.21 seconds over Ledecky. The 18-year-old Aussie touched in three minutes 58.76 seconds.

"I knew that I probably had that in me," Titmus said, "but, yeah, it's pretty surreal at the moment."

Ledecky finished in 3:59.97 — well off her world record of 3:56.46 set at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"There was no pressure for me," Titmus said. "Katie's a true champion and I'm just happy that my swim was great today, but I'm sure she'll be back to race me again next year."

Horton refuses to stand on podium with 'drug cheat'

China's Sun Yang won his record fourth consecutive title in the men's 400 free and as expected, it didn't come without controversy.

Sun's rival, Mack Horton of Australia, ignored Sun on the medals podium. They didn't shake hands and Horton didn't even step onto the podium; instead he stood behind it when given his silver medal.

WATCH | Mack Horton refuses to share the podium with Sun Yang:

Australian Mack Horton refused to stand next to Chinese swimmer Sun Yang on the men’s 400-metre freestyle podium. Sun is currently facing allegations of doping rule violations that could result in a ban from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 0:59

Sun is facing alleged doping rule violations that risk a ban from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and he has requested a public trial at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September to defend himself.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is challenging a decision by FINA, swimming's world governing body, merely to warn him over incidents during a doping control team's attempts to take blood and urine samples at his home in China last September, while allowing him to continue competing.

Sun worked his way from fifth to first and then easily kept Horton at bay over the last lap to surpass Aussie great Ian Thorpe's record of three straight wins. Sun touched first in 3:42.44. Horton took silver in 3:43.17.

'I don't think I need to say anything'

"I am aware that I have fans and also the haters in the venue, but I was just very satisfied to win," he said.

Horton is the only swimmer to beat Sun in the last eight years, taking gold in the 400 free in Rio. That's when Horton called Sun a "drug cheat" for his three-month doping suspension in 2014.

Asked what his overriding emotion was, Horton replied: "Frustration. I think you know in what respect."

"I don't think I need to say anything," Horton said. "His actions and how it has been handled speaks louder than anything I could say."

Sun said he was aware Horton has a problem with him.

"Disrespecting me was OK, but disrespecting China was unfortunate," Sun said. "I feel sorry about that."

Peaty makes history in breaststroke

Adam Peaty of Britain became the first man to go under 57 seconds in the 100 breaststroke.

He won his semifinal heat in 56.88 seconds, bettering his old world record of 57.10 set last August in Glasgow, Scotland.

Peaty is seeking his third straight world title in the event. He also won the 100 breast at the Rio Olympics.

With files from The Associated Press

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