NEWS
08/09/2016 04:31 EDT | Updated 08/10/2017 01:12 EDT

Masse extends Canada's run of medals in the Olympic pool with backstroke bronze

RIO DE JANEIRO — Before Kylie Masse's Olympic backstroke final Monday night, her coach Linda Kiefer handed the swimmer a stopwatch and told her to time two-tenths of a second.

Click. Click.

"I said 'Find it. That's what you have to do,'" Kiefer said.

The goal was to swim two-tenths faster than her semifinal time. Masse found more than that.

Going three-tenths faster, Masse tied for the bronze medal in the women's 100-metre backstroke. The 20-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., produced Canada's third medal in the pool in as many days.

The Canadian and China's Yuanhui Fu both touched the wall in 58.76, just one hundredth of a second behind silver medallist Kathleen Baker of the U.S. Katinka Hosszu of Hungary took gold in 58.45.

"I knew just from swimming prelims and semis, we're all so close and a lot of tough competitors," Masse said. "I knew it was going to come down to the touch and just trying to get my hand on the wall first.

"It's different for backstroke because we can't see anything. It's a little bit trickier than something like freestyle where at least you can see your competitors. Backstroke, you're kind of blind and hope for the best."

A bronze in the women's freestyle relay on opening day followed by Penny Oleksiak's butterfly silver on Day 2 has had a floats-all-boats effect on Canada's swim team.

"So much," Masse said. "From the performances like the relay and Penny last night, everyone's done so well not just in the pool, but also the other Canadian athletes.

"It's really inspiring to see everyone do well. It really gives each athlete hope for their own successes."

After three days of racing, Canada has qualified for eight finals and won three medals in the pool — surpassing the seven finals and two medals won four years ago in London.

Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., placed fifth in women's 100-metre breaststroke.

Sydney Pickrem of Oldsmar, Fla., earned a swim in Tuesday's 200-metre individual medley final posting the seventh-quickest time in the semifinals.

Toronto's Brittany MacLean and Katerine Savard of Quebec City did not advance from the 200-metre freestyle semifinals, finishing 10th and 14th respectively.

Ottawa's Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson also didn't advance placing 17th.

The day after trials in Toronto in April, another backstroke medallist Mark Tewksbury addressed the swim team about the upcoming Olympics saying 'it's another two lengths of the pool." 

Tewksbury won Olympic gold in 1992. Masse internalized his message.

"You have to find that balance that 'OK, this is the Olympics. This is where you need to perform,'" Masse said.

"At the same time you want to think of it as another meet and 'this is the same two lengths of backstroke you always do.'"

The University of Toronto swimmer was named the top female athlete in Canadian university sport this year. She won four gold and swept the backstroke events at CIS nationals.

"She swims happy," Kiefer said. "She enjoys what she's doing. If you saw her in the (warmup area) before she came out she had her music on, she was smiling and grooving to the music."

Masse says the strength training she's done in her two years with the Varsity Blues has given her power in the water.

She set a new Canadian record in going under 59 seconds for the first time in her career. Kiefer found her after the race talking to reporters and hugged her tightly.

"Oh my god Kylie, I'm so proud of you," Kiefer said. "When you break 59, you break it."