World championship next step for Oleksiak

Penny Oleksiak believes she’s swimming faster these days. The world championship will tell her if she’s right.

The 17-year-old Olympic champion from Toronto leads a Canadian team deep in female talent into the pool at the world aquatic championships opening Friday in Budapest, Hungary.

Winner of freestyle gold, butterfly silver and the anchor in a pair of relay bronze in Rio last summer, Oleksiak is as curious as anyone to see how high the needle on her speedometer goes in her world championship debut.

“I think I’m really about to find out,” Oleksiak said Thursday on a conference call. “I haven’t got to race a lot this year, but I’m super-excited just to get in the pool again and race in Budapest.

“I don’t think my approach to world championships is any different than it was going into the Olympics.

“Obviously I’m still a little bit nervous and not really sure what to expect going into it, but I definitely have a bit more confidence because of last summer and because of the racing that I’ve done this year.”

The biannual world aquatic championships also include diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open water swimming, so Canada is sending a total of 83 athletes to Budapest.

Canadians won four silver medals in diving and four swimming bronze two years ago in Kazan, Russia.

Diving and synchronized swimming kick off this year’s competition Friday followed by the first open water race Saturday.

The pool portion starts July 23, so Oleksiak and her 25 teammates have a few more days of preparation at their staging camp near Rome.

Oleksiak is encouraged by personal best times in the 50-metre butterfly and freestyle this year.

“I think people will always have expectations for me and people will always try and tell me their expectations to, I guess, motivate me,” she said. “But I don’t pay attention to anyone else’s expectations. I honestly don’t really care.

“I’m definitely trying to reach my own expectations and right now. They’re just to swim fast and to hopefully go around my best times and maybe under them.”

Canada’s women backed up a six-medal performance in Rio by claiming another seven at the world short-course championship in Windsor, Ont., in December.

They won a pair of freestyle relay gold with Oleksiak swimming the anchor.

They were voted The Canadian Press team of the year for 2016, which was just the third time in a half-century a women’s team earned that distinction.

Oleksiak has company among women to watch in Budapest. Winner of Olympic bronze in the 100-metre backstroke, Kylie Masse was less than a tenth of a second off the world record at trials in April.

Masse’s time of 58.21 seconds in Victoria was the fastest this year.

“It definitely gave me confidence and more excitement that’s for sure heading into the summer,” said the 21-year-old from LaSalle, Ont.

“I’ve been really focusing on the smaller skills in the race and have worked a lot on my starts even before the Olympics and after the Olympics.”

Canada boasts a one-two punch in women’s backstroke as Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C., won Olympic bronze in the 200 metres.

“Any time a team has the success like we did last summer, it just lends a certain swagger to everybody on the team,” Caldwell said.

Oleksiak, Winnipeg’s Chantal Van Landeghem, Sandrine Mainville of Boucherville, Que., Toronto’s Michelle Toro and Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., all contributed to the freestyle relay bronzes in Rio and are headed to Budapest.

Double relay medallist Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C. didn’t qualify for the team at trials, but will compete in the world junior championship in August.

Canadian swimmers qualified for 16 finals in Kazan and made it into 15 finals last year in Rio.

“The goals for the team are to build on the results of the last quad,” Swimming Canada high-performance director John Atkinson said. “We’re looking to increase our number of final swims.

“We feel the team has everything at its disposal to be best prepared for performance on demand in Budapest.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer teacher engages students with “cool” science experiments

On Thursday, he made fire dance to the beat of the music

Province purchases land for new Red Deer courthouse

Construction to begin in the fall of 2019

Parking costs in Red Deer are going up — so are parking tickets

City council raises parking rates by 25 per cent starting July 1

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month