Former Bison swimmer Kelsey Wog has qualified for the 2021 Canadian Olympic team.
Swimming at the national trials in Toronto, Ont., Wog finished with a time of 1:06.77 in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke, good enough for her to finish first and earn her a spot in Tokyo.
In the women’s 200-metre individual medley, Wog finished second with a time of 2:10.21, which was also good enough for her to qualify. 2016 Olympian Sydney Pickrem was the only swimmer to beat Wog in the event.
For her final event, Wog was the first in the water and never looked back, handily beating her competitors to win the women’s 200-metre breaststroke.
After the race, Wog reflected on her time spent leading up to her qualification and the satisfaction with the results.
“I’m pretty happy with how my races went,” Wog said in an interview with the Winnipeg Sun. “This past year and a half has been pretty crazy with training being so sporadic. It’s good to get the job done here.”
Wog enters the Olympic circuit after most recently swimming professionally for the Toronto Titans and Cali Condors of the International Swim League.
Prior to her professional career, Wog spent four years swimming for the University of Manitoba, while also studying in the faculty of agricultural and food sciences.
In her final year with the Bisons, Wog won four national gold medals, earned the title of Canada West Female Athlete of the Year and was honoured with the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award as U-Sports Female Athlete of the Year.
Wog has been a part of an influx of youth in this year’s time trials. Joining Wog in Tokyo is 2016 Olympic star Penny Oleksiak.
The 21-year-old Oleksiak became an international sensation after she secured four medals — one gold, one silver and two bronze — in Rio, making her the first Canadian athlete to win four medals at a single summer Olympic game and tying her with Victor Davis for most medals won overall by any Canadian Olympic swimmer.
Toronto native Summer McIntosh is the new youngest member of the Olympic team. The 14-year-old swimmer qualified for Tokyo in the women’s 800-metre freestyle, finishing with a time of 8:29.49. McIntosh also finished first in the women’s 200-metre freestyle.
Another young swimmer making noise at this year’s time trials was 20-year-old Finlay Knox. The Okotoks, Alta. native set a Canadian record in the men’s 200-metre individual medley with a time of 1:58.07, beating his own record set a month prior in the same venue.
Wog, McIntosh and Knox are entering a Canadian team that was extremely successful at the last Olympic games in Rio. Canadian swimmers won six medals in Brazil. All of Canada’s medals in the pool were won by women. 11 of 19 Canadian female swimmers left the 2016 Olympic games with medals.
Although Team Canada enters the Tokyo Olympics strong medal contenders, the competition will be fierce. The United States is a perennial swimming superpower, earning 33 medals — 16 gold, eight silver and nine bronze — at the Rio Olympics.
In the 100 and 200-metre breaststroke, Wog is expected to go head-to-head with some of the sport’s most dominant and established athletes, including American Lilly King, reigning Olympic and world champion in the 100.
Wog will also face stiff competition in the 200-metre individual medley. Katinka Hosszu of Hungary is entering her fifth Olympic games. She holds world records in the 100, 200 and 400-metre individual medleys, as well as the 200-metre backstroke. In 2016 she won gold by setting an Olympic record in the 200-metre and a world record in the 400-metre individual medleys. Additionally, she won gold and silver in the 100 and 200-metre backstrokes.
For Wog to win gold, she will need to swim her best times of her career against these legendary swimmers.
Canada’s six medals in 2016 and their influx of new talent make them a dark horse to steal gold in Tokyo. However, with Wog dominating the Canadian time trials, it should come as no surprise to see her and a Canadian flag atop the podium.