Women put Canada back on Olympic swim podium with another relay bronze
Canada celebrates their bronze medal win in the women's 4 x 200-metre freestyle relay during the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 10, 2016 11:19PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 11, 2016 8:11AM EDT
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Canada's female freestylers resumed the medal haul at the Olympic pool with another relay bronze Wednesday.
Katerine Savard of Quebec City, Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Toronto's Brittany MacLean and Penny Oleksiak claimed bronze in the women's 4 x 200 freestyle relay for Canada's first Olympic medal ever in that event.
The four women demolished a seven-year-old Canadian record by almost four seconds in a time of seven minutes 45.39 seconds.
"We were in the ready room saying 'who wants to get an Olympic medal tonight?"' MacLean said. "All of us were obviously really on board about that."
The United States won gold in 7:43.03 ahead of silver medallist Australia in 7:44.87.
Canada's swim team now has four medals in five days and qualified for a dozen finals so far. Day 4 of racing Tuesday was the country's only day without a swim medal.
With two relay bronze and a butterfly silver, Oleksiak is on the verge of setting a record for the most medals won by a Canadian swimmer at a single Olympic Games when she races the 100-metre freestyle final Thursday.
It would also be the most Canadian swim medals since 10 at the boycotted 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
The 16-year-old posted the second-fastest time in the semifinals just a hundredth of a second back of Australia's Cate Campbell, who broke the Olympic record.
Oleksiak shaved over half a second off her own world junior record to drop it to 52.72.
Canada will have a woman in the 100-metre freestyle final for the first time since Marion Lay finished fourth in Mexico City in 1968.
"I'm pumped up and ready for tomorrow," the teenager said. "If I can recover properly and everything by tomorrow I think I'll be good."
Emily Overholt of West Vancouver, B.C., and Toronto's Kennedy Goss swam in place of MacLean and Oleksiak in the afternoon heats to help Canada qualify with the sixth-fastest time.
"It's thanks to the three other girls -- actually five other girls, because of the morning heats swim -- that we could have such a good relay," Savard said.
MacLean was ill with sinus problems and congestion, while Oleksiak swam the freestyle heats in the afternoon.
"I knew the adrenaline would take me over," the 22-year-old MacLean said. "I've trained so hard for this and I knew I was fit enough to stand on the blocks tonight."
MacLean swam the anchor leg for the Canadian team that finished fourth four years ago in London.
The Canadians walked out during introductions holding hands with MacLean and Savard playfully swinging their arms high in the air.
"You're at the Olympic Games, you want to have fun," MacLean said. "When you're on a relay team, it provides you that opportunity. You're with three other girls.
"We were kind of the underdogs and that's the best place to be in."
The start gun went off just before midnight local time. Canada was sixth after Savard's lead-off leg with Ruck making up ground to third. MacLean held the position for Oleksiak to close.
"After the first hundred I saw a little bit that I was catching up to the people beside me," said Ruck, a 16-year-old now with two relay medals at these Summer Games.
"That definitely gave me confidence going into the last hundred, just going has hard as I could."
Canada came agonizingly close to a second swim medal Wednesday and first from a male.
Santo Condorelli of Kenora, Ont., set a cracking pace in the men's 100-metre freestyle and led by almost half a body-length at the turn.
But he was overtaken in the final strokes by Australia's Kyle Chalmers, Belgium's Pieter Timmers and American Nathan Adrian, who finished first to third respectively.
The 21-year-old swam the fastest 100 freestyle of his life in 47.88 seconds, but was three-hundredths out of a medal in fourth.
"Went out pretty fast, died pretty hard," Condorelli said. "It kind of sucks getting fourth by that much. Still, to go best times when I need to go best times, I have no complaints."
Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., snared the final berth for Thursday's 200-metre breaststroke with the eighth-fastest time in the semifinals.
"Seeing so many of our girls get on the podium and finish so well is so motivating and so exciting," Smith said. "The energy is great."
Smith says the Canadian swimmers are getting noticed by other countries.
"Missy Franklin sat down with us for dinner the other day and she said 'you guys are doing so great' and I was like 'It's Missy Franklin!"' Smith said of the American swim star.
"Even Missy Franklin said we're doing great as a team this year."