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Tokyo Games: Kelowna swimmers Ruck, Smith named to national Olympic team

Two Okanagan athletes were named to Canada’s Olympic swim team for next month’s Summer Games in Tokyo.

Kierra Smith and Taylor Ruck, both of Kelowna, made the 26-person list that was announced on Thursday.

The team was named following Olympic swimming trials that were held in Toronto, June 19-23.

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According to Swimming Canada, the Tokyo-bound squad features 10 swimmers with previous Olympic experience – including Smith and Ruck, who made their Olympic debuts at the 2016 Games in Rio.

Canada returned from the Rio Games with six swimming medals, its best haul in the sport since Los Angeles 1984.

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At Toronto, the top two finishers in each event earned the right to race in Tokyo — provided they met qualifying times.

The Tokyo Games were originally scheduled for 2020, but were postponed for a year because of COVID-19.

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The national trials were also postponed before taking place last week and this week. Just over 180 swimmers were invited from 64 clubs to compete.

Ruck is listed as having qualified in the 100-metre backstroke, the 200 backstroke and 100 freestyle.

At the 2016 Games in Rio, Ruck won two bronze medals, as the 4×100 relay team and 4×200 relay team placed third. The 4×100 medley relay team that Ruck was a member of also placed fifth.

In Toronto, Ruck placed second in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2 minutes 9.26 seconds. In first was world champion Kylie Masse, of LaSalle, Ont., with a time of 2:06.67.

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Masse’s swim in the 200 backstroke was her sixth fastest time ever, and the fifth-fastest this year.

“It’s very exciting, always an honour to represent the country. I can’t wait to get to Tokyo and see what we can do,” said Masse, a bronze medallist in the women’s 100-metre backstroke at the 2016 Games in Rio.

“It’s been a long wait. Having this first taste of competition (at trials) has been very exciting, and I think everyone is looking forward to getting to Tokyo and being able to work on and improve from this meet, and hopefully be even faster a month from now.”

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Smith, 27, qualified in the 200 breaststroke on Tuesday, having placed second in 2:25.73. Kelsey Wog of Winnipeg was first in 2:23.40.

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At the 2016 Games in Rio, Smith placed seventh in the 200 breaststroke and 19th overall in the 100 breaststroke.

“It’s absolutely fantastic news,” said Kelowna AquaJets head coach Emil Dimitrov said of Smith’s Olympic selection.

“She did fantastically well at the trials and I’m really proud of her.”

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Swimming Canada invoked an unforeseen circumstances clause in January to nominate a half-dozen athletes in events in which they excel.

The swimming events at the Tokyo Games run July 24 to Aug. 1.

Earlier this month, marathon runner Malindi Elmore of Kelowna was named to Canada’s Olympic team.

In January 2020 at the Houston Marathon, Elmore set a new national record with a time of 2:24.50. She had also previously competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, albeit in track and field in the 1,500 metres, where she missed the semifinals by one spot.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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