Canada’s Penny Oleksiak competes in a women’s 100-meter butterfly heat during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday. She has qualified for the 100m freestyle final. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Oleksiak advances to 100 freestyle final

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Canada’s Penny Oleksiak advanced to the women’s 100-metre freestyle at the world swimming championships after finishing sixth in Thursday’s semifinals.

The 17-year-old from Toronto, who is the current Olympic co-champion in the event, swam to a time of 53.05 at Duna Arena.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who swam a world record 51.71 in Sunday’s 4×100-m freestyle relay, was fastest in 52.44 to earn Lane 4.

Simone Manuel of the United States, who tied Oleksiak for Olympic gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, sits second with a semifinal time of 52.69.

“I’m excited for tomorrow, just to get back in and race again. I have no expectations again, I just want to get in and race it,” said Oleksiak, the youngest finalist in the field.

“I want to get my speed up on my first 50. I think my second 50 has been pretty strong. Going into the race I’m just excited to see how low I can get my time.”

Defending world champion Bronte Campbell of Australia (fifth, 53:04) and London 2012 Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands (seventh, 53.09) are other big names in the mix.

The 26-year-old Kromowidjojo is the veteran of the group, with 13 career worlds medals to her name including Sunday’s 4×100 free relay. Kromowidjojo swam a final leg of 51.98 to hold off Oleksiak for bronze as Canada settled for fourth. The Dutch got a measure of revenge from the Rio Games, where Oleksiak anchored Canada to bronze ahead of the Dutch.

“I’m not really focused on whatever anyone else is doing,” Oleksiak said. “I’m able to keep my head in my own lane, and not focus on anyone else.”

Boucherville, Que., native Sandrine Mainville finished 13th in a time of 54.01.

Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., also advanced to a final. Her semifinal time of two minutes 23.18 seconds was good for fifth seed in the women’s 200 breaststroke.

“It felt great, it totally went according to plan,” said Smith, who finished sixth in the 100-metre breaststroke Tuesday.

“It’s a really fun race. It’s good to know that I have speed at the back half to finish the race, and that I have a little more speed on the front end from my 100 improving. It went smooth, I’m ready for tomorrow.”

Montreal’s Ashley McGregor, making her world championships debut at 24 after a seven-year hiatus from the senior A team, finished 14th at 2:25.75.

Also Thursday was the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay team of Mary-Sophie Harvey, Rebecca Smith, Katerine Savard and Mackenzie Padington finished eighth.

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