July 28, 2019 2:17 pm

Canada wraps best-ever aquatic championships with bronze medal

Bronze medal Team Canada pose for photographs during the award ceremony for the women's 4x100m Medley Relay final at the FINA Swimming World Championships 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea, 28 July 2019. EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN

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Canada won the bronze medal and set a national record in the women’s 4×100-metre medley relay on Sunday to put an exclamation point on the country’s most successful FINA World Championships ever.

The Canadian pool swimmers ended the competition with a team record two gold and six bronze, all in Olympic events.

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They reached 19 finals — two more than in Budapest in 2017 and the most finals since 1978 — 15 world championships ago. The previous medal record was six at those 1978 worlds. In addition, Eric Hedlin won a bronze medal in the men’s five-kilometre open water event last week.

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“The 2019 world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, have been Swimming Canada’s most successful ever world championships,” said high performance director and national coach John Atkinson.

“It’s a testament to our athletes’ ability to stay focused, calm and professional, and stay engaged in the championships for all eight days. It’s something we’ve worked on with our coaching staff and our team for a number of years.”

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In the women’s 4×100 medley relay, the United States broke its world record clocking three minutes and 50.40 seconds — led off by Regan Smith’s world record 57.57 backstroke leg — and Australia was second in 3:53.42.

Canadians Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, Margaret MacNeil and Penny Oleksiak followed in a Canadian record 3:53.58.

The previous mark was 3:54.86 from 2017’s fourth-place finish in Budapest which included Masse and Oleksiak.

In the prelims, Masse swam with Rebecca Smith, Kierra Smith and Taylor Ruck, who all receive medals.

Pickrem had earlier swam the 400 individual medley final.

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“When they told me I was going to be on the relay it was really exciting,” said Pickrem. “I’ve never had an opportunity to be on a relay at world champs. I knew I wanted to get a good split for the girls and kind of prove myself a little bit.”

In the women’s 400-metre individual medley, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary won the gold medal in four minutes and 30.39 seconds. Ye Shiwen of China followed for silver in 4:32.07 and Yui Ohashi of Japan third in 4:32.33.

Pickrem, a bronze medallist in the 200 individual medley and 200 breaststroke this week, was fourth in 4:36.72 and Emily Overholt, a bronze medallist in 2015, was fifth in 4:37.42.

“I’m pretty disappointed with that,” said Overholt, who helped the 4×200-metre freestyle relay to bronze earlier in the meet.

“I guess I’m just happy to be in the final and hopefully I’ll be better next year. Obviously I’m happy to be back at worlds and I had a good swim on the relay, but 4:37 is not really the swim I trained for. I was hoping to be a bit better.”

One of the biggest goals for Atkinson was qualifying relays for the 2020 Olympic Games.

“Qualifying five relays for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games means that we will be taking those teams to Tokyo, although the athletes who will compete in those events will be determined on our Olympic Trials next year from March 30 to April 5 at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre,” he said.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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