U of T's Kylie Masse is off to the races in Rio

Varsity Blues swimmer Kylie Masse climbed 190 spots in the swimming world rankings in just one year. En route, she broke six national records, earned a gold medal at the Summer Universiade in South Korea and qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Masse was named U of T female athlete of the year, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) female athlete of the year and the BLG top female athlete in Canadian University Sport. Could an Olympic win be in the cards?

Head coach of the Blues swimming team and former Olympian Byron Macdonald shared his thoughts.

What accounts for Kylie’s extraordinary feat?

I think a number of things contributed to it. The training she got at U of T was a step in the right direction. Kylie had done very little strength training while she was in high school and we have a very good program under our strength coach Alanna Veerman. She also learned to race more often.

Kylie has a great work ethic and she is very conscientious, but she also has a somewhat carefree attitude that allows her to have no boundaries. She’s not plotting how fast she has to go or what she needs to do or what her goal time is. She just goes in and races hard and lets the time take care of itself. That’s unique in the sport of swimming, which is very focused on time. And, she has a phenomenally strong, close family, who support her tremendously.

What makes Kylie the ultimate athlete?

On top of all the other things I mentioned, it’s her natural feel for the water, a talent if you will. Kylie’s hands enter the water exactly where they are supposed to, they pull exactly the way they should. She’s got a very natural kick, a tremendous flexibility in her ankles, and they push the water just the right way. It’s very difficult to teach that, particularly by the time the athlete has reached the age of 19.

How far do you expect Kylie to go?

Female swimmers usually break through at 16, 17, maybe 18. For Kylie to break through at 19 is a little bit of an outlier, but she did it. The beauty of that is that she probably has a very large advantage. An athlete that breaks out onto the world scene when they’re 16 or 17 may plateau by the time they turn 20. But, for a 20-year-old to just barely have started to reach those higher levels of performance, there’s more room to grow. She’s already top 10 in the world. This means she could possibly get into the top five in the world in the near future.

Do you see an Olympic medal in her future?

You need a little bit more than talent and one year of being world ranked to win a medal at the Olympic Games. You need some more experience to do that, but to qualify for the Olympic Games is a gigantic first step and a testament to Kylie’s fitness and talent. Our primary goal will be to advance from prelims to semis (top 16) to top eight final; gain that experience and then build through the next quadrennial to challenge for medals. Kylie was one of the top two breakout swimmers at the Olympic trials, posting one of the highest ranked swims in the world. Three-and-a-half second improvement over 18 months is an incredible feat. Things like that don’t happen very often. I am confident that the next quadrennial, from the year 2017 to 2020, will be Kylie’s for the taking.

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