By Swimming Canada
MADEIRA, Portugal – Tess Routliffe put an exclamation point on her remarkable comeback from injury on Tuesday, capturing the first world title of her decorated career on the third night of the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships at the Penteada Olympic Swimming Complex.
Just over a year after suffering a serious back injury that caused her to miss last summer’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the 23-year-old from Caledon, Ont., was crowned in the women’s 100-m breaststroke SB7 thanks to a Canadian record time of one minute, 31.91 seconds.
It was Routliffe’s second medal in as many events in Madeira following her second-place finish in the 200 individual medley SM7 on opening night.
“I’m ecstatic. I don’t have very many words. I’m just super happy,” said the 2016 Paralympian, who had claimed silver in the 100 breast at the London 2019 Worlds. “I’m very proud of all the hard work that went into the past year, we made it.
“Last year was a really heartbreaking year but I knew all my goals were still there, all my wants and needs were still there. I expected it to probably take a bit more time but it just shows that we’re back and we have a lot to look forward to.”
Leading New Zealand’s Nikita Howarth by 73 hundredths at the turn, Routliffe increased her advantage down the stretch to prevail by 1.54 seconds. Rounding out the podium was Manduja Somellera of Mexico.
“I knew the big race was going to be between me and Nikita,” said Routliffe, who trains with coach Mike Thompson at Montreal’s High Performance Centre-Quebec. “I kind of just did what I always do, just tried to race the person next to me, and the person next to me happened to be very fast. At the 50, I knew it was going to be whoever came back faster.”
Also reaching the podium for Canada on Day 3 was Alec Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., who took bronze in the men’s 400 freestyle S10 to match his result from London 2019 and increase Canada’s haul in Portugal to three gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
The two-time Paralympian was neck and neck with Tokyo silver medallist Bas Takken of the Netherlands for the entire race, even moving up to second place at 300-metre mark, before finishing in 4:09.88, the third best time of his career. Takken clocked 4:08.27, while Italy’s Stefano Raimondo prevailed in 4:06.42.
Jagdev Gill of Brockville, Ont., the youngest member of the Canadian delegation at only 17 years of age, placed seventh in 4:48.25.
“Honestly, I think this one is more exciting (than in London),” said Elliot, who was fifth in the event in Tokyo and who trains under Marc-André Pelletier at Club de Natation Région de Québec in Quebec City. “I was totally not expecting this kind of time or to finish with a medal. It was a great swim, I’m incredibly surprised by the result.
“I kept my head in the game for the full race. I followed exactly the game plan that I discussed with my coach before, and it worked out. I was kind of aware (of the close race with Takken). I feel like we were playing a little game of chess in that one.”
Thompson, senior team coach of the Canadian contingent, was impressed with both performances.
“Tess was great. She worked real hard for that. The most special thing about this is Tess is a really big leader on this team, and I think her comeback from a potentially career-ending injury is really inspirational. To stand on top of the podium tonight with a Canadian record is simply amazing. It’s a really great thing when a leader steps up like that.
“Alec was amazing tonight. He swam very, very well. I know he was really hoping for that in Tokyo but he had a great race tonight and I think he’s going to have a really great rest of the week.”
Canadians competed in eight other finals on Day 3.
In the men’s 100 breast SB14, Nicholas Bennett of Parksville, B.C., matched his Paralympic result from Tokyo with a fifth-place finish in 1:06.16. The 18-year-old had kicked off his first career world championships on Sunday with silver in the 200 individual medley.
In the men’s 100 butterfly S8, Philippe Vachon of Blainville, Que., notched his second fifth-place finish in three nights in his Worlds debut thanks to a 1:08.13 swim. The 26-year-old matched his ranking from Sunday’s 400 free S8.
Jordan Tucker of Guelph, Ont., took part in two individual finals on the evening, bringing her total to four in three nights in her first Worlds appearance.
The 20-year-old finished sixth in the women’s 150 individual medley SM4 (4:06.21) before being disqualified in the 50 butterfly S5. In the morning preliminaries, she lowered her own S5 national mark in the 50 fly thanks to a 54.24 effort.
In the men’s 100 breast SB11, Tokyo Paralympian Matthew Cabraja, a 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont., competing at his second world championships, clocked 1:29.75 to touch the wall in sixth position.
In the women’s 200 IM SM6, Tokyo Paralympian Danielle Kisser of Delta, B.C., was seventh in 3:45.55, over three seconds faster than her preliminary result of 3:49.03.
In the women’s 100 breast SB14, Justine Morrier of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., placed eighth in 1:24.39, just off her own Canadian standard of 1:24.04. Making her second career appearance at Worlds, the 25-year-old was competing in her first-ever final.
In the mixed 4x50 medley 20-point, the foursome of Saskatoon’s Shelby Newkirk, Jacob Brayshaw of Coldstream, B.C., Tucker and Félix Cowan of Brossard, Que., placed eighth in 3:40.02. The squad shaved off a remarkable 21 seconds from its morning time of 4:01.64.
Winner of the 50 free S10 on Sunday, Aurélie Rivard of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu had to withdraw midway through the 400 free S10 final.
“Aurélie had to withdraw from the event due to a medical concern. We don’t know what the condition is at this point. We’re waiting for an update,” Thompson stated.
Two other Canadians swam in the preliminaries on Tuesday, both of them in the women’s 50 fly S5.
Jessica Tinney of Scarborough, Ont., placed 11th in 1:07.65, while Clémence Paré of Boucherville, Que., was 12th in 1:09.89.
The seven-day competition runs until Saturday, with preliminaries set for 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET / 1 a.m. PT) and finals starting at 5 p.m. (noon ET / 9 a.m. PT) daily.
All finals are livestreamed on the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Facebook page and Paralympic.ca as well as CBC Sports digital platforms: the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
Full results: https://www.paralympic.org/madeira-2022/schedule-results