TORONTO — Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak and world champions Kylie Masse and Maggie Mac Neil headline Canada's 26-swimmer team for the Tokyo Olympics.
Canada's swim team was announced Thursday after five days of trials at the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto.
Sixteen women and 10 men will wear the Maple Leaf at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre and Odaiba Marine Park.
Pool competition in Tokyo runs July 24 to Aug. 1 followed by open-water marathon swims Aug. 4-5.
The trials were cancelled in 2020 with the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year's trials in April were postponed from May and again to June while Ontario grappled with COVID-19.
"I think we were the last major swimming nation to run our formal trials, so our athletes and coaches watched the rest of the world compete and post times," Swimming Canada high-performance director John Atkinson said Thursday on a conference call.
"Our athletes certainly rose to the occasion over the last five days."
For the majority of the Canadian team, trials were their first real races in a 50-metre, or long-course pool, in over a year and a half because of the pandemic.
"Without having raced for so long, I think it was really exciting to see what we could do finally in a race again and see how our training has come together in our races," Masse said.
"Having raced this last week definitely gave me a lot more confidence."
Canadians won six swim medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which tied for the most with track and field athletes.
A 16-year-old Oleksiak led the charge in the Rio pool with a freestyle gold and butterfly silver. She also anchored the freestyle relay teams to a pair of bronze medals.
Canada then claimed eight medals in the pool and another in open-water swimming in the 2019 world championship in Gwangju, South Korea.
Masse, of LaSalle, Ont., is a two-time world champion in 100-metre backstroke since winning bronze in Rio. Mac Neil of London, Ont., is the reigning world champ in 100-metre butterfly.
Atkinson hasn't set hard targets in medals or finals made for Tokyo.
"We're going to be ready to improve and see every athlete that goes over there post times faster than they did in qualification," he said. "With that said, we're not going just to take part.
"We are going there to challenge for medals, but we don't put any specific target on that."
Now 21, Oleksiak qualified to race the 100-metre and 200-metre freestyle and is expected to be a key cog in three women's relays.
Brent Hayden came out of retirement to make his fourth Olympic team. The 37-year-old from Mission, B.C., won Olympic bronze in the men's 100 freestyle in London in 2012.
Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., will compete in her third Games.
Toronto's Summer McIntosh, 14, had a breakout trials beating Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle as well as winning the 800-metre freestyle to earn a berth on the Olympic team.
Mac Neil will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo as will McIntosh, Finlay Knox of Okotoks, Alta., Toronto's Josh Liendo and open-water swimmers Kate Sanderson of Toronto and Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby, B.C.
The two open-water swimmers qualified via races in Portugal while pool trials ran in Toronto. They hadn't competed in open water since the world championship almost two years ago.
"Our athletes have been really resilient," Atkinson said. "I'm delighted with what they did this week and I think we're in a pretty good spot."
Returning veterans from Rio's team include Toronto's Javier Acevedo, Taylor Ruck and Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla.
The swim team will gather July 3 in Vancouver for a camp before travelling July 16 to Tokyo.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2021.
The Canadian Press