2016 National Development Award: Canada
The national development award is awarded to the country that exceeded expectation in international competition during the 2016 calendar year, and for that, Canada is the clear cut recipient.
Canada shocked the world at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games when they picked up six medals in the pool made up of one gold, one silver, and four bronzes.
Their medal run started on the first night of competition. A team comprised of Sandrine Mainville, Chantal Van Landeghem, Taylor Ruck, and Penny Oleksiak put forth a national record swim of 3:32.89 to beat the Dutch by almost a full-second and claim the bronze behind the Australians and Americans.
As Oleksiak touched the wall she secured Canada’s first medal in the pool on the women’s side since the 1996 Olympic Games, a medal that was achieved four-years before either her or her teammate Ruck were born.
On night two, Oleksiak was back in the pool for the 100m butterfly final. A dark-horse to medal, she pushed her way past defending Olympic champion on the final stretch to finish second only behind world record holder Sarah Sjostrom. Her time broke the world junior record, and made her the first individual female Olympic swimming medallist from Canada in 20-years.
Two nights, two medals.
Kylie Masse continued Canada’s medal streak on night three with a bronze medal and national record in the 100m backstroke, putting Canada’s total to two bronzes and a silver.
The streak ended after night three, but night five had the Canadians in the final of the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay where they once again were strong contenders to medal. In national record time, Katerine Savard, Taylor Ruck, Brittany MacLean, and Oleksiak put forth a combined effort and added another bronze to Canada’s medal tally. That brought Canada up to four medals, and Oleksiak up to three.
Oleksiak swam her last individual event of the Games on night six: the 100m freestyle. At the turn she was seventh, and well out of the podium picture, but she began to charge, and charge, and charge over the last 25-meters. With an outstanding finish, she managed to get her hand on the wall in first, winning Canada’s first Olympic gold in the pool since Mark Tewksbury won the 100m backstroke at the 1992 Olympic Games 24-years prior.
Oleksiak’s fourth medal made her the most decorated Canadian at one edition of the summer Games. She also became Canada’s most decorated Olympic swimmer.
Canada’s last medal came in the women’s 200m backstroke. Veteran Canadian swimmer Hilary Caldwell finished third, adding a fourth bronze for Canada.
Following the completion of the Games, Canada finished eighth overall in the pool. On the women’s side, they were second overall only behind the United States – an impressive feat for the nation.
With four bronzes, a silver, and a gold, Canada won more medals in swimming at the 2016 Olympic Games than they did in the last four Olympic Games combined. Canadians were represented in 11 individual finals by 10 different swimmers in Rio.
Four of their relays qualified for the finals, two of which medaled. Canada hadn’t had a relay medal since the 1992 Olympics, and hadn’t had a women’s relay medal since the 1988 Olympics.
Shortly after the Olympics, Canada hosted the short course world championships in Windsor, Ont. this past December. There, Canada finished sixth overall with two golds, three silvers, and three bronzes. While no male swimmers medaled, the women were on fire.
Taylor Ruck finished third in the 200m freestyle in a new world junior record. The 16-year-old was also part of two gold-medal winning relays in finals.
Penny Oleksiak was third in the 100m freestyle, and was part of two gold-medal winning relays in finals as well as the silver-medal winning 4x100m medley relay.
Canada has demonstrated clear, rapid development, rising to become one of the best swimming nations on the women’s side, and for it’s success this year is being named the recipient of the National Development Swammy Award.
#1 Kazakhstan – at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Kazakhstan came home with it’s first ever Olympic gold medal in swimming. Dmitriy Balandin touched the wall first in the men’s 200m breaststroke from an outside lane in order to claim the gold in a new national record time. He also made the Olympic final in the 100m breaststroke. While Balandin’s success drew all the attention, Kazakhstan also had two other swimmers competing at these Olympic Games. Vitaliy Khudyakov swam int he men’s 10km open water, and Yekaterina Rudenko finished 20th in the women’s 100m backstroke. Led by Balandin’s gold medal, the country appears to be making strides forward in the pool.
#1 Great Britain – GBR has been drastically improving their pool performances over the last quad. In Rio, they were fifth overall in the pool with one gold and five silvers. The unbelievable domination by Adam Peaty in the 100m breaststroke (gold and world record), and their two silver-medal winning mens relays shows huge improvement on the men’s side. The women earned three silvers in individual events as well. 14 swimmers qualified for finals at these Olympics, and the British were represented in 15 Olympic finals in the pool. Although swimming participation is dropping in the UK, the British pulled through to have an outstanding Olympics.