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The road to Tokyo 2021: Five years in the making

- 25-year-old swimmer, Kylie Masse, prepares for Olympics -



Photos courtesy of Swimming Canada/Jo Kleindl


by Garrett Fodor 

As many athletes are preparing to head into the unique 2021 Olympics, Kylie Masse is choosing to focus on what she can control, rather than the circumstances around the event.

  When Masse enters the pool in Tokyo later this summer, the 25-year-old swimmer anticipates it will be a different experience from her last Olympics in 2016. This summer will mark the second time Masse will get to represent her country, as she hopes to build off her performances at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

  Five-years-ago, Masse earned a bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke, while setting a national record in the process. As she has been training for the last five-years, Masse still recalls the moments from when she believes her dreams became a reality.

  “I remember receiving my box of goodies – the training and the racing suits and the tops - it’s such a special moment,” Masse recalled. “You work so hard to get there and that’s almost like the moment where I was like, I finally made it. Every time I get in the water and get to represent the maple leaf is an extreme honour and I am so proud to be Canadian and to be on an international stage.”

  When Masse looks back on the 2016 Olympics, she admits there are moments she remembers vividly, yet other parts were a blur. When she saw that she had placed third and would later have the bronze medal draped around her neck, Masse noted she was overcome with joy. She added that following the ceremony, both returning to the Olympic village and later getting to share the medal with her friends, family, and support system back in LaSalle was such a surreal and rewarding experience for everyone.

  While she loves competing and trying her best, Masse noted her favourite part is simply being in the environment with like-minded people, who always push you to do your best, while getting to travel around the world.

  “The recognition was incredible,” Masse recalled back to Rio 2016. “You’re living in the village, and you’re surrounded by your teammates, but coming home to your family and your extended family and the people who have supported you since you were younger. It is something even more special to be able to share that moment and that medal with other people who helped you get to where you were. I still remember those moments.”

  Masse noted the last 15-months have been a whirlwind for her and her teammates. She added there has been a lot of changing and adapting quickly to her training. With restrictions changing, they have been in and out of the pool and had their sessions limited at times. But she is grateful for the opportunities and to be safe and healthy, back in the sport she loves and with the Olympics coming this summer.

  With the 2021 Olympics being closed to the public, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Masse believes it is for the best for public safety. While the experience will be different, Masse noted she competed in the International Swimming League (ISL) in November, which held events with no fans in attendance. She believes this experience and unique environment has helped her prepare for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, with a simulated environment.

  “Fortunately, I was able to take part in the ISL in the fall,” Masse said, as she prepares to head to the Olympics in late July. “The way that they created the environment and the atmosphere, we were still able to swim fast. So, it was really inspiring to see that it didn’t really matter the circumstances and the different protocols, everyone was following the rules. In fact, in those competitions people were swimming faster than they ever had before. I think seeing those little glimpses is really inspiring and motivating for this summer.”

  Like many young athletes, Masse grew up playing multiple sports, including hockey and soccer, before choosing to focus on swimming competitively at the age of 10. Growing up, Masse noted that, like many, she would watch Olympics on television. She recalls being drawn to and cheering on Ryan Cochrane and Heather and Brittany McLean, among other swimmers. 

  Being from such a small town is something that she feels benefits her and hopes to inspire other young athletes who are in a similar situation. Masse did go on to compete for the University of Toronto, while studying kinesiology.

  “I’m so honoured to be from a small town in a small area, because I do think it is harder. When I was growing up, we didn’t have like a full Olympic sized pool until I was in grade 12,” recalled Masse. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what your resources are, like, as long as you work hard and put your head down and have fun with it, I think you can dream as big as you want and get to whatever you believe in.”