Make it 10: Hilary Caldwell Swims to Bronze Medal in Women’s 200-metre Backstroke
RIO DE JANEIRO – Almost every night this week, Hilary Caldwell tried to remain patient while she watched the swimming competition in via television from the Olympic village.
One more swim
RIO DE JANEIRO – It was a well-deserved day off for Canada’s golden girl of the pool on Friday, but Penny Oleksiak’s drive for five is expected to continue on Saturday.
The overall depth of the Canadian women’s program was in evidence again on Friday as the 4×100-metre medley relay team laid down down the second fastest time in preliminary heats.
With Oleksiak returning — possibly as anchor in the freestyle leg — the Canadian women will swim for a third relay medal of the Games and a Canadian record fifth overall for Oleksiak.
Already the most decorated Canadian athlete in a Summer Games, a medal on Saturday would allow Oleksiak to match speedskater Cindy Klassen’s five-medal Winter Games of 2006 in Turin.
Oleksiak’s teammates were stellar again in Friday’s qualifying heat with Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., Noemie Thomas of Richmond B.C., and Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., getting the job done. Ruck has been a part of the two relay medals so far.
The time of 3:56.80 will allow the Canadians a favourable middle lane in the final. Of note, Masse, who won bronze in the women’s 100-metre backstroke on Monday, set a Canadian record with a 58.66 second leadoff leg.
Rob Longley, Postmedia News
She watched as her Canadian teammates took the world by tidal wave.
Caldwell knew her time would come, however, and vowed to be ready to join the party that has made Canadian women an emerging force in the sport.
On Friday at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, the 25-year-old from White Rock, B.C., got her chance and delivered, earning a bronze medal in the women’s 200-metre backstroke.
It was Canada’s sixth medal in the pool this week.
“I’ve seen six days of seeing girls swimming absolutely lights-out fast and I was there last night,” said Caldwell, who finally got into the pool on Thursday for her semi-final then watched Penny Oleksiuk take gold in the 100-metre freestyle. “We sang the anthem when Penny was on top of the podium, which was so cool. I’m glad I get to be a part of that for sure.
“It’s been so cool to see how great we have been swimming.”
Typical of the new Canadian mindset, Caldwell was actually mildly disappointed with her finish on Friday, believing that gold was within reach. Her time of 2:07.54 was no threat to gold medal winner Maya Dirado (2:05.99) of the U.S., or silver medallist Katinka Hosszu (2:06.05) of Hungary.
Caldwell, who had the 18th best time in the event when she made her Olympic debut in London four years ago, believed she could push the top two by virtue of her win in the semi. And she believes 2:05 is within her reach.
“I wanted to be faster personally, but in the end it’s about the race,” said Caldwell, who is originally from London, Ont., but grew up in B.C. “I can’t be too upset, I’m on the podium, right?
“I saw the time, I looked up and saw the three lights on the blocks so I knew I was third. I was happy, but I did want the gold medal. I saw the time and I gave a little scowl.”
As with virtually all of the medal performances by the Canadian women this week, there was an historical element to Caldwell’s accomplishment. The bronze was the first by a Canadian in the event since Nancy Garapick won a medal 40 years ago in Montreal.
Caldwell has been on a steady rise since the London Olympics and won gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto last summer. The waiting game wasn’t the easiest, but it’s something she’s grown used to in her career. Typically, backstroke events are scheduled towards the conclusion of international competitions.
“I didn’t go to the finals every night,” Caldwell said. “I just tried to watch it from the village and get excited, yeah, but remember that I can’t get too hyped up on Day 1 or Day 2 or Day 3.”
Starting from Lane 5, Caldwell was fourth after the opening 50 metres, but a killer turn quickly had her in medal position. By 150 metres it was clear she was bound for a medal and the former University of Victoria swimmer finished it off.
With the medal haul growing by the night — and a big shot for a seventh medal in the women’s 4×100 medley relay on Saturday — the Canadians now believe they can compete with anyone in the world.
“I would hope so,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to be almost the same amount of medals as Australia, which is outrageous. We’ve already got two relay medals and that shows we are one of the top female teams here. I can’t believe it. It’s crazy. It’s great.”