Mac Neil wins Canada's first gold in Tokyo Olympics, first in women's 100 butterfly

TOKYO — Swimmer Margaret Mac Neil has won Canada's first gold medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Mac Neil was seventh at the halfway point of the women's 100-metre butterfly, but swam a strong second length to win in a time of 55.59 seconds.

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"It was more than I was hoping for at this point," Mac Neil said. "I was really just trying to enjoy the experience and just have fun, which I think I did today.

"So I'm really proud of that and just trying to not be so nervous and just try to loosen up, which is when I really swim at my best."

Zhang Yufei of China was second and Emma McKeon of Australia finished third.

Mac Neil became Canada's first multi-medallist in Tokyo following a silver medal in the women's 4x100 freestyle relay in the first day of finals.

The 21-year-old from London, Ont., was a surprise winner of the 100-metre butterfly at the 2019 world championship in Gwangju, South Korea, where she bested reigning Olympic champion Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden.

"Coming in with a target on your back is hard in so many ways," Mac Neil said. "Going into worlds, I was relatively unknown, so I had that to my advantage.

"Going in with an expectation that I wanted to do well for myself and my family and friends and teammates that are home, I think that added pressure just makes it a little bit more challenging."

Mac Neil, a senior at the University of Michigan, is also a two-time NCAA champion in freestyle and butterfly..

She'd posted the sixth-fastest semifinal time in the 100-metre butterfly an hour before swimming the second leg of the relay in Tokyo.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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