Lasalle, Ont., native Kylie Masse brings joy to community after second Olympic medal

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Kylie Masse is set to bring home the second Olympic medal of her career after setting the pace in a lightning-fast women's backstroke final and her hometown could not be happier.

The 25-year-old brought joy to her family and the LaSalle, Ont., community Tuesday after leading at the halfway turn in the 100-metre backstroke with the fastest first length of her life, emerging with a silver medal. Her mother, Cindy Masse, said she's immensely proud and remembers her daughter excelling at swimming as a child, but never imagined her as a two-time Olympic medallist in the making.

"I don't really think any of us saw this coming," she said with a laugh in an interview on Tuesday.

Kylie Masse won bronze in the 100 metre backstroke in 2016 when she made her debut at the Rio Olympic Games.

Her mother said she hadn't been able to see her daughter race in a long time, in part due to challenges in finding a pool to practice in during the pandemic.

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all Ontario pools for weeks in the spring of 2020, the Olympian got into a harness and tethered herself to a fence so she could swim in place in her parents' backyard pool.

Masse was forced to relocate from her home pool at the University of Toronto, where she trains under coaches Linda Kiefer and Byron MacDonald, to Toronto's Pan Am Sports Centre last year to join a training group overseen by Ben Titley.

"Silver medal woman! Proud of this woman!" said Kiefer, her assistant coach, when Masse emerged with a silver medal on Tuesday.

Her win not only inspires younger athletes in the team but also brings pride to the school community, said Vanessa Treasure, Masse's friend and team captain during her time as a varsity athlete at the University of Toronto.

"It's inspiring to say the least, that you can come out of this program and do what she's done," said Treasure, who described Masse as a humble and happy teammate.

For the local community in Lasalle, Masse has lifted spirits especially during COVID-19, said the town's mayor.

"We've followed her career since she got her bronze and silver in this Olympics, which is phenomenal," said Marc Bondy.

"(Kids) have somebody to walk up to that says, 'hey, she grew up in our town, she can do it. You work hard, give up things and you can become an Olympic champion.'"

Cindy Masse said she felt good when she saw her daughter do well in the trial race a month ago.

"I think that was really a confidence boost to her ... and she knew she could do it," she said.

"But again, every race is a different race and we're just impressed of how strong she was and how fast she was going and just how close it was."

-- with files from Denise Paglinawan

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Rhythm Sachdeva, The Canadian Press

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