Canada’s Maggie Mac Neil has won Canada’s first gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics Monday, after finishing first in the women’s 100m butterfly.
Mac Neil, 21, finished with a time of 55.59 seconds, setting a Canadian record at her first Olympic games. The swimmer, who needs glasses but wasn’t wearing contact lenses or prescription goggles in the pool, took a moment to squint at the scoreboard before realizing she had won.
“She often has trouble reading the board,” Mac Neil’s mother, Susan McNair, told Global News, saying that it was a “priceless moment” watching her daughter try to figure out how she had placed. Mac Neil’s optometrist even emailed the family to compliment the athlete on her new glasses — that she wasn’t wearing in the pool.
The silver medal went to China’s Zhang Yufei and the bronze to Australia’s Emma McKeon.
Entering the turn seventh out of eight swimmers, Mac Neil pulled ahead of her competitors in the second half, posting the third-fastest ever Olympic time in this event.
“I’m not usually out as fast,” Mac Neil said Monday after her win. “I need a little bit more time to get going. The second 50 is always my sweet spot and where I feel the most comfortable.”
Mac Neil now adds Olympic champion to her swimming resume, a complement to the world title she won two years ago in Gwangju, South Korea.
Mac Neil knew the world title meant she wasn’t going to surprise anyone in Tokyo.
“Coming in with a target on your back is hard in so many ways that I wasn’t really expecting,” Mac Neil said. “Going into worlds, I was relatively unknown, so I had that to my advantage.
“Going in with an expectation that I wanted to do well for myself and my family and friends and teammates that are home, I think that added pressure just makes it a little bit more challenging.”
Mac Neil, who hails from London, Ont., is Canada’s first multi-medallist in Tokyo after combining with Penny Oleksiak, Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith to win freestyle relay silver on the opening day of finals.
“It’s surreal, fantastic,” said Mac Neil’s father, Edward Mac Neil, in an interview with Global News. “And you stop for a second, you just think and then all of a sudden it hits you what happened.”
– With files from Global News’ Crystal Goomansingh and the Canadian Press