Canada's Maggie Mac Neil sets world record to win gold medal in 50m backstroke

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  • Maggie Mac Neil
    Canadian swimmer
Maggie Mac Neil of Canada competes in the women's 50m backstroke heat during day four of the FINA World short-course Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi. (Francois Nel/Getty Images - image credit)
Maggie Mac Neil of Canada competes in the women's 50m backstroke heat during day four of the FINA World short-course Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi. (Francois Nel/Getty Images - image credit)

Canada's medal haul at the world short-course swimming championship in Abu Dhabi continued on Monday.

Maggie Mac Neil of London Ont., swam to a world record in the 50-metre backstroke as she finished with a time of 25.27. Kylie Masse of La Salle, Ont., was 0.35 seconds behind to grab silver in 25.62. Sweden's Louise Hansson finished in third.

WATCH | Mac Neil wins gold in 50m backstroke:

"If you told me my first world record would be backstroke I wouldn't have believed you," said Mac Neil, the Olympic champ in the 100 butterfly in Tokyo, and world long-course champion from 2019. "But I knew if I could fix my turns, there was a chance. That was definitely my goal coming into this meet."

Canada has won 12 medals so far at the competition.

"The 50 in short course is all about power and underwaters and the swimming part is my strength so the 50 is always the biggest challenge for me," Masse said. "I'm really happy to be on the podium. To be next to Maggie and watch her get that world record, I knew she had been close a couple of times and was gunning for it."

Earlier in the day, Sydney Pickrem claimed gold in the 200m individual medley after earning her way into the finals earlier in the day with the third-fastest time in the heats.

Pickrem, from Halifax, trailed USA's Kate Douglass and China's Yiting Yu after the first 100 metres, but by the 150m mark was in front and held on to earn the gold in a time of two minutes 4.29 seconds. Yuwas 0.19 seconds back for silver while Douglass claimed bronze and was 0.39 seconds back of the Canadian.

"I knew I had to have my best back half, that's my strength," said Pickrem. "The times don't really matter with how my prep has been this season, it's just getting up and racing."

WATCH | Pickrem wins gold in 200m IM:

Canada ended the day by winning gold in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay with a time of 7:32.96, which was 03.57 seconds ahead of the United States who won silver and 06.96 seconds ahead of China who won bronze.

Summer McIntosh, from Toronto, led Canada off and was in third behind China and USA. Kayla Sanchez of Scarborough, Ont., was next in the water and passed both the States and China to give Canada the lead. Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que. held onto the lead and anchor Rebecca Smith from Red Deer, Alta., only further extended Canada's lead to give them gold.

John Atkinson, director high performance and national coach for Swimming Canada, called Monday's finals the best night for Canada at a world championships.

"It was a fantastic night for Canadian swimming," said Atkinson. "The performances the athletes have put together at the end of the year make it a fantastic way to close out 2021 and move forward. The athletes, the coaches, the support staff have worked tirelessly all year and to come here and have what's probably the best night for Canadian swimming at a world championships is outstanding and they deserve all the credit."

World short-course swimming championships can be seen live on CBCSports.ca.

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