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