Olympic gold medalist Maggie MacNeil will be limited to kicking-only duty for the near future after fracturing her elbow in a pool-deck slip.
MacNeil slipped while attending the NCAA Championships at Georgia Tech in Atlanta in March. She wound up having a CT scan and an MRI last week in Canada where she found out that she had an elbow fracture.
MacNeil had already said that she was only taking on relay duty at the World Championships for mental health reasons.
MacNeil says that she doesn’t have a recovery timeline yet, but will “definitely be kicking for a few weeks and (then) will reassess.”
MacNeil isn’t the world’s only elite butterfly to have suffered a broken elbow in the last 18 months. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom fractured hers and had to have a medal plate installed after slipping on ice in early 2021. Her recovery was faster-than-expected, and she still managed to win a silver medal in the 50 free at the Tokyo Olympics.
MacNeil says that her fracture isn’t as severe as Sjostrom’s, though. With Sjostrom saying that she won’t swim the 100 fly at the World Championships this year, that means the event’s two best swimmers over the last decade will be absent.
Also missing from the race will be Australia’s Emma McKeon, the Olympic bronze medalist who is focused on the Commonwealth Games.
That leaves China’s Zhang Yufei and American Torri Huske as the favorites for gold in Budapest in June, though Huske still has yet to officially qualify. The third spot at the top is wide-open, with only two other Olympic finalists expected to compete: Sweden’s Louise Hansson and France’s Marie Wattel.
In spite of the injury, MacNeil was able to push through and race in, and win, the 100 fly in 57.13 to earn her spot on both the World Championship and Commonwealth Games teams. If healthy, it’s hard to not see Canada option her onto at least the 400 free relays as well, if not a couple of extra individual events for the Commonwealth Games.
MacNeil is the defending Olympic, long course World Champion, and short course World Champion in the 100 fly. She is also the defending Short Course World Champion in the 50 backstroke, where she broke the World Record in December in Abu Dhabi.
At the NCAA Championships where MacNeil’s injury occurred, she finished 3rd in the 100 fly and the 50 free and 10th in the 100 free, all well short of her best times. That was her final NCAA Championship meet for Michigan: after four seasons there, she will transfer to Cal to use her bonus 5th-year of COVID-waiver eligibility under former US Olympic head coach Teri McKeever.
MacNeil says that she is done at Michigan and will wrap up her coursework there remotely and train at the High Performance Center in Toronto until she moves to Berkeley and Cal. There she will be led by Ryan Mallette, who is currently leading the group after former group leader Ben Titley took a job as the head coach of the National Training Center in Barcelona, Spain.
MacNeil is a native of London, Ontario, which is about two hours southwest of Toronto (and only about three hours from Ann Arbor, where she went to college).