University of Toronto alumna Kylie Masse won the silver medal in the women's 100-metre backstroke on Monday night at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The 25-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., touched the wall in 57.72 seconds – three-tenths of a second behind Australia’s Kaylee McKeown – to finish second and earn her second straight Olympic medal in her signature event.
Masse, who swam for the Varsity Blues, tied for the bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I'm really happy,” Masse told CBC after the event. “To get on the podium in this incredibly talented and deep field, I knew it was going to be a challenge – so I'm really happy to have gotten silver.”
Masse, who graduated from U of T's Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education earlier this year, kicked off the Games with an Olympic-record swim of 58.17 seconds in heats on Sunday morning. In a sign of the competitiveness of the field, Masse’s record time was then broken twice – by American Regan Smith (57.96) and McKeown (57.88).
In the semifinals, Masse went on to touch the wall in 58.09, ranking her second coming into Monday's final event.
“It's always an honour to represent your country and this year especially when no one is able to be here,” she said. “I can feel the love and support from home and I couldn't be happier to bring a medal home and contribute to Canada's success here.”
Varsity Blues head swimming coach Byron MacDonald, who is also in Tokyo as a CBC commentator, said he was impressed with Masse's performance.
“After all the challenges during this pandemic year, she rises to the challenge once again,” he said in an email. "Sport is about performance on demand and Kylie always answers the bell. What a record of getting to the podium these past six years. This silver is icing on a very impressive cake! We are so very fortunate to have had Kylie Masse on campus these past years. She is one of the greatest Canadian athletes ever, and an outstanding leader and compassionate friend to all who know her.”
Masse will also swim in the 200-metre backstroke and could make an appearance on Canada's women's and mixed medley relay teams later this week.
During her time with the Varsity Blues, the two-time world champion went undefeated at five consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships by never losing an individual or relay race. The five-time OUA female swimmer of the year, five-time OUA first team all-star and the 2015 OUA female rookie of the year also twice won the Dr. Jeno Tihanyi award for individual medley excellence and earned major grand slams in all three backstroke events.
On the national stage, Masse earned the grand slam award for four career victories in the backstroke events and was named the U Sports female swimmer of the year from 2016 to 2019. She was named the BLG award winner as the U Sports female athlete of the year across all sports in 2015-16 .and was named U of T's T-Holders’ female athlete of the year three times between 2015 and 2018.
Masse's international highlights while competing for the Blues include a bronze-medal finish in the 100 backstroke at the 2016 Olympic Games, as well as breaking the world record en route to a gold-medal finish at the 2017 FINA world championships.