Penny Oleksiak narrowly misses 100m freestyle podium at worlds

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Canada's Penny Oleksiak, seen above earlier at worlds, placed fourth in the women's 100-metre freestyle final on Thursday in Budapest, Hungary. (Petr David Josek/The Associated Press - image credit)
Canada's Penny Oleksiak, seen above earlier at worlds, placed fourth in the women's 100-metre freestyle final on Thursday in Budapest, Hungary. (Petr David Josek/The Associated Press - image credit)

Penny Oleksiak's first individual medal at worlds will have to wait.

The Toronto native placed fourth in the women's 100-metre freestyle at the world aquatics championships on Thursday in Budapest, Hungary, touching an agonizing 0.06 seconds behind bronze medallist Torri Huske of the U.S.

A podium appearance would have marked Canada's eighth in Hungary, tying the team record set at 2019 worlds. It also would have been Oleksiak's eighth career medal at worlds, breaking a tie with Kylie Masse.

Oleksiak, 22, won gold in the 100m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed fourth at Tokyo 2020.

"It's a bit frustrating to get fourth again," Oleksiak told Swimming Canada. "I missed another turn which is really annoying. But I put everything into it, so I can't be too mad."

Australia's Mollie O'Callaghan took top spot on Thursday in a time of 52.67 seconds, while Swedish world-record holder Sarah Sjoestroem scored silver in 52.80 seconds.

WATCH | Oleksiak finishes 4th in 100m freestyle:

Canada's Kayla Sanchez placed sixth in 53.59 seconds.

"I'm happy with the whole experience of my first final," said Sanchez, a stalwart on Canada's relay teams. "It didn't come out the way I wanted. I know I'm a 52 second freestyler but I have to learn to be patient and trust the process."

Oleksiak was in the medal hunt for the entire race, touching third at the halfway point. It seemingly set up well for the Canadian, who is typically among the quickest finishers.

But it wasn't to be, as Oleksiak touched in 52.98 seconds, just behind Huske's time of 52.92.

It is O'Callaghan's first world title, while Sjoestroem won her 17th individual medal at a worlds, second only to Michael Phelps with 20. It was Sjoestroem's record fifth medal at a worlds, but the Swedish swimmer has never won gold.

Defending champion Simone Manuel was among several notable absences from the race along with Siobhan Haughey, Shayna Jack, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell.

WATCH | The significance of swimming in Lane 4:

Like Oleksiak, Canada's Kelsey Wog also swam to a fourth-place finish.

The Winnipeg native just missed the medals in the women's 200m breaststroke with her time of 2:23.86. Wog, 23, was going for her first career medal at a major international meet.

She missed the finals in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke at her Olympic debut in Tokyo, and placed sixth in the latter at 2019 worlds.

"Fourth is fourth but I'm really proud of my effort," said Wog. "I've been really focused on finishing strong and getting my stroke rate up on that last 50."

Wog got off the blocks with the fastest reaction time at 0.64 seconds and kept close contact with the leaders throughout the race, but never could quite break through.

American Lilly King, fifth at the 150-metre mark, won gold in 2:22.41, ahead of Australian silver medallist Jenna Strauch (2:23.04) and bronze medallist Kate Douglass of the U.S. (2:23.20).

WATCH | Swimmer saved by U.S. coach after fainting in pool:

Liendo continues impressive meet

Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Josh Liendo — who won his first-career medal at worlds (a bronze) in the 100m freestyle — continued his impressive meet by winning his semifinal in the 100m butterfly in 51.14 seconds.

The time was the third-fastest overall, setting the 19-year-old up to contend for another podium appearance in the final on Friday at 12:44 p.m. ET.

Less than an hour later, Liendo, of Markham, Ont., swam to second place in his 50m freestyle semifinal, touching in 21.73 seconds for the third-fastest overall time.

The qualification means Liendo will race two finals in a short time span on Friday, with the 50m freestyle medal race scheduled for 12:09 p.m. ET.

"The 100 fly was a little tougher than I wanted it to be and the 50 free felt good,'' said Liendo. "I'm happy with both swims. I just tried to stay relaxed through the day. I'm ready [for both finals]."

WATCH | Liendo details confidence after winning bronze:

Masse was also in the pool on Thursday, where she put herself in position to break the tie with Oleksiak and take the individual Canadian mark for herself.

The 26-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., placed third in her semifinal and sixth overall in the 200m backstroke with a time of 2:09.37. She'll race for a medal on Friday at 12:53 p.m. ET.

Masse won silver in the event at the Tokyo Olympics and bronze at 2019 worlds. She's looking to add to her collection at the current event, where's she's already collected 50m backstroke gold and 100m backstroke silver.

"Hopefully I can sneak in there and do a lot better tomorrow [Friday] in the final,'' said Masse. "It's a long meet doing all three backstrokes but I try to manage it all and reset for a new day."

Oleksiak swam the anchor leg to help Canada win bronze in the women's 4x200 freestyle relay, giving her seven career world championship medals alongside Masse.

The Canadian men's water polo squad had a match originally scheduled for Thursday postponed until Friday due to COVID-19 cases among the team.

Later, Canada's Katerine Savard failed to qualify for the women's 50m breaststroke final.

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