Canadian swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Maggie MacNeil has arrived in Berlin, Germany ahead of the opening stop of the 2021 FINA World Cup Series, but says that she still plans to return home in time to open up her collegiate season in Dallas next month.
MacNeil is the defending Olympic and NCAA Champion in the 100 butterfly, and is entering her 4th and final season with the Michigan Wolverines’ varsity squad. MacNeil entered the NCAA transfer portal over the summer, but said at the time that she still planned to finish out her original four year commitment in Ann Arbor and graduate. She will then explore options to transfer to use her 5th year of eligibility, which was granted by the NCAA to all swimmers who competed last season because of the challenges of COVID-19.
MacNeil arrived in Berlin on Monday morning.
The World Cup stop in Berlin runs from October 1-3, and Michigan will open its intercollegiate season on October 8 and 9 in Dallas at the SMU Classic. MacNeil says that she’s racing the first stop of the series “just for fun,” and will be back in Michigan on Monday, October 4 before leaving with the team for SMU on Thursday afternoon.
While the NCAA has opened up its rules on “Name, Image, and Likeness,” and MacNeil has signed with an agency to manage those opportunities, rules surrounding prize money have still not changed. That means athletes are still only able to accept prize money up to covering their actual competition and training expenses. That broad definition, though, does mean that MacNeil can likely keep all of the money she earns at the World Cup if she can justify it as an offset against her expenses.
Author’s musing: with Kylie Masse in Berlin for the meet as well, and the possibility of those two being joined by Ingrid Wilm and a breaststroker (Kelsey Wog? Sydney Pickrem?) we could see the Canadian women going after a National, or even World, Record in the 200 medley relay. Based on form and abilities, that relay might look something like Wilm, Pickrem, Masse, MacNeil. The Canadians say that isn’t the goal, but it’s fun to think about anyway.
The SMU Classic has a unique format where teams take 8 swimmers and 1 diver (per gender). That team has to fill out the schedule with 2 swimmers per event in an almost ISL-like format, though it’s been around long before the ISL was a glimmer in Konstantin Grigorishin’s eye.
Besides her specialty the 100 fly, MacNeil excels in sprint backstroke and freestyle events as well. At the SMU Classic, she’ll have a big showdown with swimmers like Louisville’s Gabi Albiero and Missouri’s Sarah Thompson, both of whom also scored at NCAAs. MacNeil was the NCAA runner-up in the 50 free, Thompson placed 3rd, and Albiero finished 14th.
MacNeil was also the 2021 NCAA Champion in the 100 free.