Maggie MacNeil sets world record in 50m backstroke

London, Ont.’s Maggie MacNeil didn’t just win another gold medal at the FINA World Swimming Championships.

MacNeil set a short-course world record in the 50-metre backstroke.

The 21-year-old shaved 0.33 seconds off the mark held by Kira Toussaint of the Netherlands, swimming two lengths of the pool in 25.27 seconds. Toussaint set a new mark in November 2020 in an International Swimming League Race and then broke it again at a meet in Amsterdam a month later.

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MacNeil showed off her power and continued to take advantage of a very special skill that has been outlined by one of MacNeil’s former coaches, Andrew Craven with the London Aquatic Club.

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“It’s the underwater segment that she is the best in the world at,” said Craven. “Once it became clear that doing the underwater dolphin kicks was a really valuable skill to develop and nurture, we would tell even our youngest swimmers to try to take three underwater kicks off the wall and Maggie always did what her coaches asked. She started with three and now she does 10.”

The 50-metre backstroke in a 50-metre pool has no turn and therefore no opportunity to move like MacNeil can under the surface, but the pool being used in Abu Dhabi, UAE for the Short Course Worlds” are held in a 25-metre pool, presenting the opportunity to turn.

“You want to go as far as you can underwater as fast as you can,” Craven said. “You can go 15 metres underwater but if you are not doing it fast, it doesn’t amount to much. That’s Maggie’s trick. She takes those kicks with the absolute maximum power. It’s not her secret weapon anymore but it’s her greatest weapon.”

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The championships continue until Tuesday.

MacNeil now has three gold medals after she and her Team Canada teammates won the 4×100-metre freestyle and the 4×50-metre mixed freestyle.

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