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Maggie Mac Neil advances to her first Olympic final — the 100m butterfly

Maggie Mac Neil advanced to the 100m butterfly final by finishing third in the semi-final on Saturday

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She’s a world champion and one of Canada’s latest bold and talented young swimmers.

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And on Sunday in Tokyo, Maggie Mac Neil will look to bring all that promise to the Olympic podium.

Poised and focused as she has been throughout her young career, Mac Neil battled her way into the final of the women’s 100-metre butterfly on Saturday when she finished third in her semi-final at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Her time of 56:56 was a touch slower than anticipated but placed her sixth and grabbed a coveted spot in a final, giving her a shot for Canada’s first individual medal of the Olympic meet.

Mac Neil was in the toughest of the two semis and finished behind signing world record holder and Olympic champ Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden and China’s Yufei Zhang, who touched the wall first in 55.89.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem (top) reacts after coming in second to China’s Zhang Yufei (bottom) in a semi-final of the women’s 100m butterfly swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games July 25, 2021. (Oli SCARFF/AFP)
Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem (top) reacts after coming in second to China’s Zhang Yufei (bottom) in a semi-final of the women’s 100m butterfly swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games July 25, 2021. (Oli SCARFF/AFP) Photo by OLI SCARFF /AFP via Getty Images

She’s also one of Canada’s busiest swimmers in the first two days of the meet and had to be concerned with conserving energy for her spot in the women’s 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay later on Saturday and Sunday’s final in the butterfly.

Mac Neil burst into prominence in 2019, when as a 19-year-old she captured the gold medal at the world championships, instantly upping her status to Olympic contender.

Not only was it the London, Ont. native’s coming out performance, it was her first senior international meet.

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  1. Mac Neil, who burst on scene with her surprise victory in the 100-metre butterfly at the worlds in 2019 and is now being billed by many as a medal contender in her signature event at these Tokyo Olympics, cruised through Saturday’s prelims.

    Maggie Mac Neil is ready for her Olympic journey: Canadian swimmer cruises to butterfly semis

  2. Penny Oleksiak smiles after seeing she tied for the gold medal in the women's 100m freestyle finals in Rio.

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  3. Sydney Pickrem, a medley specialist among the strong women's team in Tokyo, withdrew Saturday morning from the 400-metre individual medley.

    Canadian swimmer Sydney Pickrem withdraws from 400-metre medley at Olympics to focus on her best events

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The victory fast-tracked her rise in the sport and elevated expectations for the University of Michigan swimmer. She also won a pair of bronze medals in her worlds debut — on the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays.

The third-year psychology student is the latest of the young guard of Canadian women who were inspired by Penny Oleksiak, the four-time medalist at the 2016 Rio Games.

GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – JULY 22: (L-R) Bronze medalist Emma McKeon of Australia, gold medalist Margaret MacNeil of Canada and silver medalist Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden pose during the medal ceremony for the Women’s 100m Butterfly Final on day two of the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre on July 22, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea.
GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – JULY 22: (L-R) Bronze medalist Emma McKeon of Australia, gold medalist Margaret MacNeil of Canada and silver medalist Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden pose during the medal ceremony for the Women’s 100m Butterfly Final on day two of the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre on July 22, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea. Photo by Maddie Meyer /Getty Images

The Big Ten swimmer of the year and Michigan female athlete of the year in 2019-2020, Mac Neil has gained a reputation as a fierce competitor, an asset that should serve her well in Tuesday’s Olympic final.

“She has a great finish and swims a lot bigger than she is,” Rick Bishop, her former coach at Michigan told Postmedia’s Ryan Pyette. “She’s a scrapper and the other women will have to be more worried about her than she is about them.

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