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Canada’s Mac Neil breaks own 50m backstroke world record at short course championships

Maggie Mac Neil repeated as champion in the women’s 50-metre backstroke Friday at the short course swimming championships, taking the gold medal in a world-record time of 25.25 seconds.

Mac Neil, from London, Ont., lowered the world mark she set at the 2021 championships in Abu Dhabi by .02 seconds.

Javier Acevedo of Toronto and Finlay Knox of Okotoks, Alta., followed Mac Neil’s win with silver and bronze medals respectively in the men’s 100-metre individual medley. That gave Canada nine medals (two gold, two silver, five bronze) so far at the championships, which wrap up Sunday.

The 22-year-old Mac Neil led start to finish to beat American Claire Curzan (25.54 seconds) and Australian Mollie O’Callaghan (25.61). 

Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., the 2021 silver medallist and reigning long-course world champion in the discipline, was fourth in 25.81.

It’s the fourth medal (two gold, two bronze) of these championships for Mac Neil, who won the 50-m butterfly Wednesday and contributed to bronzes in the women’s 4×100 freestyle and mixed 4×50 medley relays.

“I’m ecstatic. I knew it would be hard to go a best time but I just really wanted to see the improvements and I’m glad I did it,” Mac Neil said. “I’ve been learning so much from each swim that I’ve been doing and I think I was able to fix all those little errors tonight.”

Mac Neil swam in Lane 5 with Masse beside her in Lane 6. Masse gave her teammate a congratulatory hug over the lane rope at the finish and raise the champion’s arm.

“I just said, ‘Incredible job,’ and I told her that she broke the world record because I couldn’t tell if she could see or not,” Masse, 26, said of her teammate, who wears glasses outside the pool and often squints at the scoreboard after races. 

“It’s always a pleasure to race next to Maggie. She continues to push me and it’s incredible to be able to be next to her when she does something amazing like that.”

It’s Mac Neil’s 15th career medal between long-course and short-course world championships, tying with Masse for most of all time by a Canadian. 

In the men’s 100 IM, Acevedo touched in 51.05, just 0.08 behind Italian Thomas Ceccon to lower his Canadian record. Knox also swam under Acevedo’s previous standard, turning in a best time of 51.10 for third place.

“It feels pretty incredible and to do it with two of my friends, one of them being one of my best friends,” Acevedo said. “Finlay and I have got really close in the last couple years. 

“This past fall and summer we’ve gone to concerts together, the international film festival together and just even now sharing the podium is so special. I train with the guy every day and he pushes me and I push him.”

Acevedo and Knox were also part of the men’s 4×200-m freestyle relay team that finished seventh in 6:56.02. 

In other Canadian finals, Sydney Pickrem finished fourth in the women’s 100 IM and Montreal’s Mary-Sophie Harvey was eighth in the 100 IM at 59.11.

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