Penny Oleksiak wins 100-metre freestyle at Olympic swim trials

TORONTO — Penny Oleksiak didn't get what she set out for, but felt a sense of relief.

Oleksiak won the women's 100-metre freestyle Friday night at Canada's Olympic and Paralympic swim trials.

The Toronto native's time of 53.66 seconds was over the Olympic qualifying time of 53.61, but under the Olympic consideration time of 53.88.

So while Oleksiak can compete in the women's 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay in Paris, there's no guarantee she'll race individual 100 free there.

Athletes with the Olympic consideration times will be invited to compete only if the overall quota of 852 athletes hasn't been reached after accounting for athletes qualified by way of the Olympic qualifying time, relays, and universality.

"I'm excited to go. I'm excited to be part of the team," said Oleksiak, who left the pool deck after her race with a look of disappointment. "I really want that individual spot, so I'm going to do everything I can to secure it.

"It definitely takes some weight off my shoulders knowing that I'm going now."

Mary-Sophie Harvey of Laval, Que., placed second in 53.71 seconds.

Each country can enter a maximum of two athletes per individual event with the deadline to go under the qualifying time at an approved World Aquatics competition June 23.

"We'll see, I hope so," Oleksiak said of trying to meet the Olympic standard at another meet.

Oleksiak's time was her best since the 2022 world championship in Budapest, Hungary, where she finished fourth in 52.98 seconds.

She has dealt with multiple injuries over the last couple of years, including a second knee surgery in that span that she told the CBC she had four months ago.

Canada's most decorated Olympian of all time with seven medals, Oleksiak won her lone gold in the 100 free in the 2016 Rio Games. She tied for first with Simone Manuel of the U.S. in a time of 52.70, which was an Olympic record at that time.

The 23-year-old holds the Canadian record of 52.59 seconds, which she set in the Tokyo Games in 2021 when she finished fourth.

Summer McIntosh, who broke her own world record Friday in the 400-metre individual medley, and Olympic butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil pulled out of Friday's 100-metre freestyle. They won't compete in the event in Paris.

The women's 200 breaststroke final saw a photo finish between Sydney Pickrem and Kelsey Wog, who both went under the Olympic qualifying time of two minutes 23.91 seconds.

Pickrem finished in 2:23.79, while Wog touched the wall a hundredth of a second back in 2:23.80. Winnipeg's Wog also swam under the Olympic standard in the heats earlier in the day, having gone 2:23.71 for the fastest among all competitors.

"I was really happy with how my prelim swim went. I just kind of put everything into it this morning," Wog said.

"Finals is always just a little more stressful and I'm happy to have repeated going under the standard and I'm excited for the summer."

While it'll be a second trip to the Olympics for Wog, it's the third for Pickrem, who felt it wasn't her best race but was happy to book her ticket to Paris.

"Anxiety is real. It was so real today," Pickrem said. "My other coach Caroline said 'if you didn't feel nervous, anxious and scared, you would be a psychopath because this is a nervous, scary thing to do, is try and qualify for a third Olympics. That's not an easy task.'"

Saskatoon's Blake Tierney set a Canadian record and went under the Olympic qualifying mark in the men's 200 backstroke with a time of 1:56.74. Montreal's Ilya Kharun swam the men's 200 butterfly in 1:54.41 to earn a trip to his first Olympic Games.

Para records were set Friday in the men's and women's 200-metre medley.

Nicholas Bennett of Parksville, B.C., set a world record of 2:05.97 on the men's side, while Tess Routcliffe of Caledon, Ont., broke her own women's national record in 2:54.78 in the SM7 classification.

Competition continues through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press