Maggie Mac Neil swims butterfly stroke directly towards the cameraSwimming Canada/Ian MacNicol
Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

Maggie Mac Neil swims to 100 fly silver at World Aquatics Championships

Maggie Mac Neil has swum her way back onto the podium at the World Aquatics Championships, winning Canada’s first swimming medal of the week.

The reigning Olympic champion in the women’s 100m butterfly won the silver medal in the event on Monday in Fukuoka, Japan. Mac Neil’s time of 56.45 seconds left her 0.33 back of the winner, China’s Yufei Zhang, who had finished one spot behind Mac Neil at Tokyo 2020. American Torri Huske grabbed the bronze medal in 56.61 seconds.

Mac Neil had been in third place at the midway mark of the final, but the fantastic turn she’s known for propelled her further up the podium. Swimming in lane three, she was in a tight fight for first as they swam for home, but Zhang just moved ahead of her in the closing metres.

“Honestly I’m more happy with the placement than the time,’’ said Mac Neil. ‘’Obviously I would have hoped to be faster. That’s something to work towards for next year, but it’s always good just getting back on the international stage of racing.”

This is Mac Neil’s seventh career medal at the World Aquatics Championships. She was crowned world champion in the 100m butterfly in her debut at the worlds in 2019, when she also won two relay medals. She opted out of competing in individual events at last year’s world championships to prioritize her mental and physical health, but did contribute to three relay medals.

“I think it was really important taking the space and being able to be a relay-only swimmer definitely gave me a different perspective on the sport,’’ she said. ‘’Being able to come back and get my confidence up and win my first Commonwealth Games gold medal was another really important step for me. So overall I’m really happy with the decisions that I made. And I’m definitely going towards next year now.”

Maggie Mac Neil holds up her silver medal hung around her neck
Maggie Mac Neil with her silver medal won in the 100m butterfly at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan (Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol)

Mac Neil is Canada’s first medallist in the swimming pool at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, following a pair of bronze medals in diving by Caeli McKay and Pamela Ware.

The first day of swimming finals on Sunday saw Summer McIntosh finish fourth in the women’s 400m freestyle, as she missed the podium by just 0.35 of a second. The anticipation had been high for that race because it featured the three fastest women ever in the event. Australian Ariarne Titmus, the reigning Olympic champion, reclaimed the world record with her time of 3:55.38, breaking the mark that McIntosh had set at the Canadian Swimming Trials in late March. American legend Katie Ledecky took the silver for her 23rd career world championship medal while Erika Fairweather of New Zealand got to the wall just ahead of McIntosh for the bronze.

Summer McIntosh gives a thumbs up as she hangs off the lane rope by the pool wall
Summer McIntosh reacts to her fourth-place finish in the 400m freestyle at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan (Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol)

‘’Not every race can be a 10 out of 10,’’ said McIntosh, the silver medallist at last year’s worlds. ‘’I’ll use this as a learning experience heading into the next days and of course towards the Olympics.’’

About an hour later, McIntosh was back in the water to swim leadoff for the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay that also included Mac Neil, Mary-Sophie Harvey, and Taylor Ruck as the anchor. They ended up in seventh place in 3:36.62. Canada finished fifth in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay after a great effort by Josh Liendo, Ruslan Gaziev, Finlay Knox, and Javier Acevedo saw them clock 3:12.05.

Four Canadian male swimmers on the pool deck in their track suits
The Canadian men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team of Javier Acevedo, Josh Liendo, Finlay Knox. and Ruslan Gaziev prepare for their final at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan (Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol)

The medal-winning teams in both relays secured their Olympic spots for Paris 2024. The times swam by the Canadian quartets will now be ranked against those achieved at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in February to determine the 13 other countries that will fill out the Olympic fields.

Looking ahead to Tuesday, Canada boasts two of the eight finalists in the women’s 100m backstroke with Kylie Masse and Ingrid Wilm both advancing. Masse is seeking her fourth straight world championship medal in the event.