Two of the newest names in Canadian swimming made their mark Thursday at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Santo Condorelli finished fourth in the men’s 100-m freestyle, while Kierra Smith advanced to the women’s 200-m breaststroke final on Day 5 at Kazan Arena. Both are swimming at their first world championships.
Condorelli’s time of 48.19 was his third straight time in the 48s at this meet. He improved from a heat of 48.77 to a semifinal 48.49 before ultimately being just 0.07 behind bronze medallist Federico Grabich of Argentina. China’s Ning Zetao took gold in 47.84, followed by Australian Cameron McEvoy (47.95).
“It was a lot less anxiety-ridden than the semi was. It was fun. In the semis I think I put a little bit too much pressure on myself, like if I don’t get it it’s a shame or I’m letting myself down,” said Condorelli, whose mother hails from Kenora, Ont. “It’s not as scary as I thought. I can hang with these guys. Seeing big old Nathan Adrian towering over me is not going to scare me anymore.”
Condorelli, 20, was the youngest man in the final and was fastest to the turn at 22.75 before coming back in 25.44.
“I’m not used to being behind and trying to catch up. It’s a lot better for me to be out ahead and focus on myself. I don’t have to worry about who’s beside me or get caught in any waves,” Condorelli said.
Meanwhile, Smith’s time of 2:22.82 knocked half a second off her personal best and was Canada’s first 2:22 since the “suit” era of 2009, when her idol Annamay Pierse was setting world records with Martha McCabe not far behind.
“I’m so happy. I had 2:22 written on my wall all year,” said Smith. “I really wanted to get a 22 after going 23 last year. After warm-ups I was like ‘I feel like I’m going to go 22,’ and my coach (Claude St-Jean) was like ‘I don’t know what 22 feels like,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t either but I hope it’s like this.”
The 21-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., advanced to Friday’s final in fifth position. World record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen of Denmark sits first at 2:21.99.
“I’m just going to try to remember that I belong in this final now. It might be a little nerve-wracking but if I can just remember that I can race these girls then I think I can try to go into it with as much confidence as I can,” Smith said.
Swimming in events previously dominated by Canadians Brent Hayden and Pierse, Condorelli and Smith represent a new generation of Canadian swimmers heading into the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have big shoes to fill being behind Brent Hayden. He’s an inspiration for me. It’s awesome to get tweets by him saying good job and congrats,” Condorelli said of the former world champion and Olympic medallist. “To represent my country and represent my family is the greatest thing I could ever ask for. That’s what I’m going to try to do to the best of my ability.”
In other evening action Winnipeg’s Chantal Van Landeghem just missed the women’s 100-m freestyle final, finishing ninth with a semifinal swim of 53.93.
“The time is decent. It’s obviously disappointing coming in ninth but you learn from it and I have the 50 (Saturday) so I’ll try to turn it around for that,” said the 21-year-old Pan Am Games gold medallist.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom – already with two world record swims in the 100-m butterfly – was fastest in 52.78, followed by Australia’s Campbell sisters, Cate and Bronte, in 52.84 and 53.00.
Van Landeghem was a tenth of a second off her Canadian record swim from last month’s Pan Ams in Toronto. American Missy Franklin out-touched her by 0.01 for the eighth and final spot in Friday’s final.
“That’s the name of the game, sometimes you’re on the good side of the touch, sometimes you’re on the bad side. There’s nothing you can really do except learn from it and move on,” Van Landeghem said.
Action continues Friday with Day 6 of the eight-day competition, with heats beginning at 2:30 a.m. ET. Morning swims to watch for Canada include returning bronze medallist Hilary Caldwell of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria in the women’s 200-m backstroke and Karl Krug in the men’s 50-m freestyle.
Swimming News courtesy of Swimming Canada.