University of Toronto Varsity Blues swimming standout Kylie Masse claimed the 2017 women's backstroke world gold medal in a world record time of 58.10 on Tuesday afternoon at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest.
Sitting in third place after the first 50 metres, Masse used an incredible final lap to touch the wall ahead of Kathleen Baker of the United States (58.58) and Emily Seebohm of Australia (58.59) and become the first-ever Canadian woman to win a world swimming title.
"I don't' think it's really sunk in yet," said Masse after the race. "I touched the wall and I looked back and I had to make sure I was looking at the right lane and right time so I was just super excited. After the Olympics I realized that I belong in the final and I belong on the podium and that all comes with confidence. I think that this entire year I felt better about my racing and that all helps leading up to a championship."
The now 21-year-old broke Great Britain's Gemma Spofforth world championships record and world record (58.12) set back in July 2009, the longest-standing record in women's swimming. She also bettered her own Canadian record (58.18) that she set in semifinals yesterday, coming just .06 off the world mark.
She won bronze in the same event at the Rio Summer Olympics last August and is the first Canadian to win a world title since Brent Hayden claimed gold in the men's 100 freestyle in 2007.
"The magnitude of what this woman has been able to accomplished in a relative short period of time is amazing," said Varsity Blues head coach Byron MacDonald. "She just broke the oldest female world record on the books. She is the world champion. I am so very proud of her. An incredibly humble young woman, Kylie is going to find it harder and harder to stay under the radar with performances like this."
Masse works under a unique coaching staff, with MacDonald and assistant Linda Kiefer splitting time as her head coach.
"Often such a situation could be confusing and as such disastrous for an athlete," added MacDonald, "but in our case it works beautifully. Linda and I have worked together for over 25 years so we are always on the same page."
U of T also provides Masse with a full-time strength coach and physiotherapist, as well as an academic advisor.