Day 1 Finals – Women’s 200m Freestyle
Ruck is the first Canadian champion over 200m freestyle, the first medallist from her country in the event for 20 years, since Jessica Deglau took bronze in 1998 and only the sixth Canadian to make the podium in 39 shots at that status since the four-lap free was introduced in 1970. A star on the rise… read below: when Ruck met SwimVortex’s Liz Byrnes…
Ruck, who axed two second off her own Canadian standard (1:56.85 on Pro Tour this year), entered the all-time top 10 at No7, Titmus in at No10.
Coached at the national performance centre in Ontario by Ben Titley, Ruck tracked McKeon for the first 100m before making the third lap count enough to turn not only ahead but enough ahead to keep 400-800 ace Titmus at bay in the battle for the end wall.
The clock stopped for Ruck 0.02sec inside Mckeon’s 1:54.83 Commonwealth standard from 2016 – and for Tutmus 0.02sec the other side of what is now confined to an Australian record.
The ebb and flow:
- 26.68; 56.04 (29.36) 1:25.67 (29.63) 1:54.81 GR Ruck (CAN)
- 27.14; 56.50 (29.36) 1:26.03 (29.53) 1:54.85 Titmus (AUS)
- 26.45; 55.80 (29.35) 1:25.85 (30.05) 1:56.26 McKeon (AUS)
McKeon has suffered a shoulder niggle this season and the impact of that showed down the last lap and she faded off the teen pace. In fourth, England’s Ellie Faulkner clocked 1:57.72.
Top of the global pace so far in 2016:
Women 200M Freestyle (2018)
CAN , 17
AUS, Gold Coast
AUS , 17
AUS, Gold Coast
RUS , 27
AUS , 23
AUS, Gold Coast
NED , 30
Said Ruck: “In the last 25 metres I took two breaths.
“I thought I just had to keep my head down and try not to breathe because I thought I saw Ariarne coming up really fast and I was thinking, just go as fast as I can.
‘’I saw Ariarne coming up and I thought she’d won when the race was over. Then I looked up at the board… I don’t think I’ve processed it yet. In the last 50 I knew I had to keep my head down and try and not breathe. I knew I was being chased.’’
Ruck later anchored Canada to silver in the 4×100-m freestyle relay, after which she said: “Putting down performances like this is really important to see where I am at this point going towards the next Olympics. I’m really excited with the process.’’
Canada’s head coach John Atkinson said: ’We knew the Australian was going to have a strong finish. Taylor ]managed to keep her stroke rate up at the end of the race.
“To drop her personal best from 1:56 to 1:54 is a tremendous effort and shows what she is capable of.’’
On the relay, Ruck said: ‘’It was a special race because I got to share it with my best friends.”
Some hours after her swim, CBC had Ruck down as still being shocked by her win. The likelihood was that she was fast asleep in preparation for the next target.
When Ruck Met Byrnes…
Ruck Reflects On Rio Joy & Budapest Woe As Commonwealths LoomIt was December 2017 and the weather in Sheffield was wintry but the heat of Ponds Forge intense, the pool deck awash with swimmers looking to make the England team for the Commonwealth Games in April.
The Swim England Winter Championships represented the final chance to book a spot for the event at Gold Coast in April but while the consequent highs and lows commanded attention, there was also a small group of Canadian women led by former Great Britain women’s coach Ben Titley.
Taylor Ruck, Kierra Smith, Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith may have numbered just four but between them boasted Olympic, world, world junior and Pan-American medals.
The four all swim under Titley at the High Performance Centre – Ontario and the meet in the South Yorkshire city was the first of two stops in Europe before they headed to the Lausanne Swimming Cup.
The spotlight may have fallen on the home swimmers, but there was further evidence – if it was needed – of the threat the Canadian women have become on the world stage.
Especially notable was Ruck who went 2:06.87 in the 200m backstroke, good enough for sixth in the world and shuddering given she had not prepared for the meet which in itself was not an international competition.
Had she competed at world titles in Budapest in July rather than fall short at trials, that time would have placed her fifth. There was also a top-10 time in the 100 free of 52.96 and she tied Brittany MacLean’s national record in the 200 free in 1:56.94.
Eye-opening stuff for Ruck who was born in Kelowna, British Columbia, and who moved back to Canada in May 2017 from Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lived from 10 months old.
There were six medals for Canada – all won by women – at the Olympics in Rio in 2016 – including shared gold for Penny Oleksiak with Simone Manuel of the United States in an historic 100m free.
That was followed by four medals at world titles in Budapest last July – Kylie Masse and Sydney Pickrem plus the two mixed relays – before medals and records galore at the World Junior Championships in Indianapolis.
A force indeed and one that has plenty of time to develop its potency, at 23 Kierra Smith was the oldest of Titley’s quartet, Sanchez the youngest at 16 with Ruck and Rebecca Smith both 17.
In an interview with SwimVortex’s Liz Byrnes, Titley said: “These girls are a fabulous group to work with. It is refreshing to work with young people, there are challenges because they move away from home at a young age, they billet with families, they have to go through certain experiences we all go through as teenagers and they are doing it away from home.
“There are challenges but there is also the biggest upside of performance in terms of helping them travel the world, be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
“We came over here because we don’t really have any domestic racing in Canada of any real quality and certainly not long-course for a while. So we wanted to kick-start that long-course process a month earlier than maybe we would have done if we had stayed in Canada.
“It is all a learning process for them.”
And Ruck clearly excelled in learning those lessons. Standing 6ft 1in, with a long, graceful stroke that belies its power, the teenager was apparently bewildered to learn that a journalist wished to speak with her.
Well, two Olympic relay medals and 13 – including nine golds – over two World Junior Championships as well as four world junior records does mark her out somewhat.
A few days later at the short-course meet in Lausanne, Ruck went on to set a new Canadian record of 2:01.66 in the 200 back and narrowly missed the world junior record in the 50 free in 24.08 swimming alongside former triple Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo as well as setting three national age group records.
In the first of a two-part feature with SwimVortex, Ruck spoke with a quiet intelligence about her life in swimming with a maturity that belies her tender years.
Of why the young Canadian women are cutting such a swathe, Ruck told SwimVortex: “I can’t pinpoint one thing.
“I guess it is the competitive nature inherent in all of us because I know Penny (Oleksiak) is very competitive, I am very competitive. The girls on my team are super competitive. I think when I see one person do well I push myself because I want to get better too. It’s just that competitive aspect that drives me and my team-mates.”
She also pays tribute to the lessons handed down by the senior swimmers.
“Their experience definitely helps. They give great advice, meet wise, and especially the girls who were at HPC Ontario, they aren’t any more, they are retired or just not swimming with us any more.
“They are so wise, they promote that sense of pro swimming I guess, more focus, so they help a lot.
“People like Katerine (Savard), I swim her events kind of, she pushes me too because I want to be as good as her and compete against her. They push me to be like who I am today.”
Ruck made her major international debut for Canada at the world juniors in Singapore in 2015 where the 15-year-old won six medals, including gold in the 100m, 200m free and 4×100 mixed free relay, silver in the 4×200 free and bronze in the 200 back and 4×100 free.
She recalls: “It was really exciting, it was really nerve-wracking too because I had never been outside the country to compete before so I was on edge. And Singapore was totally different.
“But it was really fun and it opened my eyes to what I could achieve. It helped set my sights to higher than I was expecting.”
Wise words and less than a year later Ruck was on the greateste stage of all, at the Olympics in Rio where she won bronze as part of the 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams.Just 16 in Rio, when asked to describe her experience, Ruck’s eyes widen as she says: “Oh my gosh. I’ll try.”
Her eyes might be wide but noticeable was her focus on the competition and what she was there to do rather than the understandable distraction of all the Olympic Games has to throw at you.
“It was amazing to just see a high level of competition, all sports too, not just swimming.
“My eyes were definitely opened, it was a totally different experience to what I had ever had before.
“The actual competing aspect, everyone was so focused, everyone knew what they had to do so everyone had their own place.
“When you got out on deck and it was time to race you knew you were ready and the nerves were really intense because it was the Olympics but at the same time, all the older girls were telling us younger girls it is just like another meet so don’t like be too nervous and that definitely happened.
“We had a meeting before we went to Rio and they did a Q and A on what to expect. One of the answers to how do you just focus on yourselves and not your competitors and other major names, it was just focus on yourself, they are just another competitor. Narrow your focus.”
The high of Rio was followed by missing out on the 2017 World Championships, trials difficult to negotiate when in an American training cycle, an issue now void given her move to Canada.
“It was pretty disappointing. All the people I went to Rio with were going, I felt so left out and I wanted to help the team and be there for everyone and help Team Canada. It just kind of set my sights harder for Commonwealths.”
But there was a golden lining and then some in Indianapolis, six golds and a silver, and a creaking suitcase. Oh, and three world junior relay records.
Next up will be the Commonwealth Games – of which more next time along with her time as a water baby, her future plans, her gratitude to those on Team Ruck and her grandpa.