Disclaimer: Dolfin Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Dolfin Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
Heading into the 2019 World Championships, you could break down most of the events by their predictability: some events (the men’s 100 breast, the women’s 1500 free) feel almost locked in for gold based on historic, world-dominant performers. Others (the men’s 200 free, the women’s 200 fly) feel completely up in the air.
As of yesterday, many of us would probably have put the women’s 100 fly in the former category.
Sarah Sjostrom, the world record-holder, had won the the last three World Champs gold medals in the event (and four of the last five), plus 2016 Olympic gold. She held the 11 fastest swims of all-time, and 14 of the top 20.
But Canada’s Maggie MacNeil pulled off arguably the upset of the year, going 55.83 to beat Sjostrom for 100 fly gold.
With all due respect to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus (who had a massive upset of her own in the 400 free), MacNeil’s swim was more shocking because it came completely out of nowhere.
Heading into the meet, MacNeil’s best time ever was a 57.04 from Canadian Trials in April. Before this year, her lifetime-best was a 58.38 from Junior Pan Pacs last summer. MacNeil in on an absurd trajectory. Before yesterday, she didn’t even have her own Wikipedia page. The 19-year-old is now the second-fastest flyer in history; two days ago, she wasn’t even in the top 20. While many were projecting a breakout summer for Canada internationally, almost no one expected their first gold to come from MacNeil.
Now, the excitement only continues to grow. MacNeil already put up a valiant 53.1 split on Canada’s bronze-medal-winning 4×100 free relay. She’ll be the flyer on their medal-contending women’s 4×100 medley relay, and could even swim a leg of the mixed medley, which now looks like a legit contender too. Just 19, MacNeil could be a legitimate world record challenger by the Tokyo Olympics – she’s currently just four tenths away, and the closest anyone in history has been to Sjostrom’s record.
And just six months ago, MacNeil wasn’t even a serious candidate for the 100 fly final. How quickly things can change in the sport of swimming.
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