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Canada's Mac Neil wins silver in 100m butterfly at worlds

Maggie Mac Neil Maggie Mac Neil - The Canadian Press

FUKUOKA, Japan — Maggie Mac Neil says she still has work to do before the Paris Olympics, but her return to individual competition at the World Aquatics Championships showed she is still among the top swimmers in the world.

Mac Neil claimed silver in the women's 100-metre butterfly on Monday. The decorated swimmer from London, Ont., finished with a time of 56.45 seconds.

Yufei Zhang of China won gold with a time of 56.12 seconds, while Torri Huske of the United States finished third in 56.61.

"Honestly I'm more happy with the placement than the time," said Mac Neil, the event’s Olympic champion in Tokyo and world champion in 2019.

"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."

Mac Neil skipped individual events at the worlds last year as she focused on her mental and physical health.

The 23-year-old returned to individual competition at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where she won five medals including gold in the 100 butterfly. "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."

Mac Neil was third at the halfway mark of Monday's race, but a strong push off the turn put her ahead to set up a dramatic finish.

"It’s a focus for sure but I think so much of it is just natural and easier for me," she said about her turn. "It makes it easier when it comes to doing something like that, but I’m always working on it."

Also on Monday, Canadians Kylie Masse and Ingrid Wilm qualified for Tuesday's final in the women's 100m backstroke.

Masse, of LaSalle, Ont., finished second in her semifinal and was the fourth fastest overall in 59.06 seconds. Wilm, of Calgary, was third in the second semifinal in 59.35.

"I'm just excited to have earned a spot,’" Wilm said. "I just feel lucky that I get the chance this year. I don’t want to jinx myself but I’m just taking it step by step and I’ll do what I can tomorrow night."

American Regan Smith posted the day's fastest time of 58.33.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2023.