4 Storylines To Watch At The 2021 Canadian Olympic Trials

2021 Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials

The 2021 Candian Olympic Swimming Trials will take place from June 19, 2021 – June 23, 2021, in Toronto, Ontario and will serve as the final qualification opportunity for athletes wishing to represent the country in Tokyo.

There are currently 6 swimmers nominated to race in Tokyo for Canada already who were pre-selected based on past results during the Olympic qualifying window:

Canadian Olympic Swimming Roster 2021 (Pre-Trials):

While 6 swimmers have already made the team, there is still a lot of racing to go this week in Toronto and we’ve assembled 4 exciting storylines for you to follow as Canada’s fastest swimmers compete for a spot on the 2020 Olympic squad:

1. Women’s Distance Spots Up For Grabs

At the 2016 Olympic Games, Canada only sent 1 woman to the Olympics for the women’s 800 freestyle in the form of Brittany MacLean. MacLean raced to an 8:26.43 for 10th place finish overall. Since MacLean’s retirement, as well as the more recent retirement of 2017 and 2019 World Championships distance swimmer for Canada Mackenzie Padington, the fate of distance swimming for the country fell into question.

Fast forward to June 2021 and the gap left by Canada’s last class of distance freestyle-swimming women has been filled in by a duo of swimmers born in the 21st century.

14-year-old Summer McIntosh has been on an age group record-breaking spree this season and has an incredible range that includes the 200 fly, 400 IM, and nearly all of the freestyles. 18-year-old Emma O’Croinin meanwhile raced for Canada at the 2019 World Championships and collected 200 freestyle bronze and 400 freestyle silver at the 2019 World Junior Championships.

Looking at the 800 freestyle, Summer McIntosh is the fastest entrant with a best time of 8:35.30 which she swam in May of this year. An 8:35.30 is impressive in its own right but it’s even more incredible when you note that she actually hit that time in the opening 800 split of a 1500.

She is entered with an 8:46.15 though as her swim may have been after the entry deadline. Emma O’Croinin isn’t far off from McIntosh with another sub-8:40 PB of 8:39.63.

Both of them are dangerously close to the FINA A cut but we have yet to see what McIntosh will produce in an 800 freestyle where she doesn’t have to keep swimming after for another 700 meters. McIntosh has a good shot at hitting the FINA A and if a solid race breaks out, it won’t be out of the question to see her pull O’Croinin under the time, allowing them to both qualify for the Games.

In the 1500 free, McIntosh and O’Croinin will be back with another set of leading times. McIntosh will go in with a 16:15.19 (this is the swim in which her opening 800 was an 8:35,30) and O’Croinin a 16:30.46. McIntosh is under the 16:32.04 FINA A cut while O’Croinin is just on the bubble.

While McIntosh and O’Croinin are the favorites, they will benefit from having a decent-sized field of swimmers behind them including Katrina Bellio, Marit Anderson, Abby Dunford, and others.

Considering the fast times produced by these swimmers in the months leading up to Trials, there is a good chance that Canada will have a full roster for the women’s distance and we could even see them fighting for a spot in the Olympic final.

2. Young Men Ready To Make Their Move

We’ve covered McIntosh and O’Croinin but the list of young Canadian men that have risen in the rankings since the last Olympic Trials 5 years ago goes on.

Among the biggest standouts at the meet are Cole Pratt and Finlay Knox who were only 13 and 15 years old back in 2016. Since then, they have shaved mounds of time of their PBs and have each lowered Canadian record; Pratt in the short course 200 backstroke and Knox in the short course 100/200 IM and the long course 200 IM.

Pratt is currently the top-ranked 200 backstroker in the country this season and will be hoping to pull off the Ryan Murphy double as he also enters the 100 back as second seed behind pre-qualified Markus Thormeyer.

Knox on the other hand is the quickest 200 IMer this season with his 1:58.88 Canadian record and will be a prime candidate for qualification with nearly 3 seconds separating him from seed #2.

Another big name is 18-year-old Josh Liendo who is coming in hot as top seed in the 100 fly (52.12), 3rd seed in the 50 free (22.29), and 4th seed in the 100 freestyle (49.15). Liendo actually collected a silver medal for Canada in 2019 at the World Junior Swimming Championships and will be ready to put his best foot forward at Trials as he tried to nab a spot on his first Olympic squad.

3. Big Battles In The Women’s 100s

When Canada pre-qualified 6 swimmers for the Olympic Games, they filled 3/8 of the potential individual spots up for grabs in the women’s 100s. Kylie Masse was named to swim the 100 back, Maggie MacNeil the 100 fly, and Taylor Ruck the 100 freestyle. That leaves one spot in each of those 3 events as well as 2 spots to be filled in the 100 breast.

The fields in those events are absolutely loaded and there is little doubt that it will take some significant PBs in order to secure a spot on the Olympic squad. Take look at the top group of swimmers heading into each event:

Women’s 100 Backstroke

  • FINA A – 1:00.25


  1. Kylie Masse – 58.16
  2. Talyor Ruck – 58.55
  3. Maggie MacNeil – 59.45
  4. Jade Hannah – 59.63
  5. Kayla Sanchez – 59.82
  6. Danielle Hanus – 1:00.34
  7. Ingrid Wilm – 1:00.45
  8. Mary-Sophie Harvey – 1:00.64

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

  • FINA A – 1:07.07


  1. Kelsey Wog – 1:06.44
  2. Kierra Smith – 1:06.54
  3. Sydney Pickrem – 1:07.20
  4. Rachel Nicol – 1:07.94

Women’s 100 Butterfly

  • FINA A – 57.92


  1. Maggie MacNeil – 55.83
  2. Rebecca Smith – 57.59
  3. Danielle Hanus – 58.74

Women’s 100 Freestyle

  • FINA A – 54.38


  1. Taylor Ruck – 53.03
  2. Penny Oleksiak – 53.41
  3. Kayla Sanchez – 53.57
  4. Maggie MacNeil – 54.06
  5. Rebecca Smith / Sarah Fournier – 54.82

Taking a look at these seeds, we can anticipate some exciting action in the women’s sprint events. One of the mostly highly anticipated performances will be defending Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak‘s bid for the 100 freestyle. She has a shot at joining Taylor Ruck who has been pre-selected for the event but will need to beat out an impressive field of Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith, and Sarah Fournier, among others in order to get a shot at defending her Olympic crown. Simone Manuel’s surprising 9th place finish in the 100 freestyle US Olympic Trials has us wondering if we will be seeing either of the 2016 Olympic champs in the event race the event this summer.

4. Will Hayden’s Comeback Payoff?

On October 23, 2019, we reported that Canadian swimmer and 2012 bronze medalist Brent Hayden made a comeback to professional swimming in an attempt to qualify for his third Olympic Games.

By March 7, 2020, Hayden had already managed to hit a FINA A standard in the 50 freestyle at the Pro Swim Series – Des Moines where he touched with a 21.97. Later that month in Calgary, Alberta, Hayden found success in the 100 free and scorched a 49.91 which got him close to the FINA A in that event of 48.57.

Hayden recently got down to a 48.47 in the event while leading off a men’s 4×100 freestyle in Toronto that would qualify Canada to race that event in Tokyo. Hayden will be in contention to race the 100 free both individually and as a part of the relay this summer along with the group of men who were a part of that relay: Markus Thormeyer, Yuri Kisil, and Josh Liendo.

Hayden might actually be the favorite to win both of the sprint 50s considering his history with the sport and the fact that he’s going in with the top time in both. In fact, his 50 free time is the only sub-22 swim in the field and his 100 free is one of 3 under 49 along with Thormeyer and Kisil.

The wait for Hayden’s Olympic bid has been extended by more than a year but if he brings his A-game to Toronto this week he certainly could be on that flight to Tokyo.

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1 year ago

Just talked to me wife Canada’s “Mighty Mouse” Elaine Tanner after I was reading and sharing swim swam write up on all these lovely women swimmers…Elaine replied to me so proud of all our team men included but especially the women. “I will tell you one thing they are going to have one hell of a relay team”. Just thought I would pass this quote on to you all.. Cheers John Watt Elaine’s (partner/husband)

Waiting for Trials!
Reply to  JOHN WATT
1 year ago


Spotted Zebra
Reply to  JOHN WATT
1 year ago

I love this — thanks for commenting and sharing! ❤️

1 year ago

I really hope Ruck’s prequalification in the 100 free doesn’t come back to bite us. I get the point for certainty when we didn’t know what would happen but so far she hasn’t impressed and I would hate for Oleksiak, Sanchez, or MacNeil to not get a swim if they prove to be in significantly better shape at these trials.

Bill G
Reply to  Bob1235
1 year ago

yes – the form Ruck, Oleksiak and Sanchez is somewhat of a mystery. Exclucing the May 2021 time trial event, none of these three competed in 2020-21. MacNeil has some excellent NCAA results and Pickrem/Wog/Masse have ISL swims from the fall.

SwimFan NU
1 year ago

Can someone at swimswam ask HPC-Ontario why McIntosh decided to not swim the 400 free

1 year ago

The Fina A time for the 100 back is not the same as the 100 breast. Super excited to see how these athletes do.

Coach Mike 1952
1 year ago

Streaming links? CBC perhaps? TY in advance.

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Ben Dornan
1 year ago

Thank you Ben!

1 year ago

Hayden already made Tokyo for the relay.

Reply to  Janet
1 year ago

Hayden helped the CDN relay qualify for a wildcard spot at Olympics a few weeks ago. But as even Hayden pointed out on Instagram, he still has to come top 4 at trials in 100 free to be named to Olympic team for relay. This is very likely, but still no guarantees.