Finlay Knox Ready to Help Men Step Up at Canadian Olympic Trials

finlay-knox
Finlay Knox; Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

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Finlay Knox Ready to Help Men Step Up at Canadian Olympic Trials

The narrative around Canadian swimming has, for the last two Olympic cycles, rightly bent toward an outstanding women’s program. That won’t change in 2021. But for Finlay Knox and others in the Canadian men’s program, there’s hope that it can evolve into a “yes, and” situation.

Fresh off a national record last month, Knox will be among the leaders of a bounce-back men’s program at Canadian Trials, which run from Saturday to Wednesday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

The divide in the programs is stark. After being shut out at the 2012 Olympics, a resurgent generation of Canadian women garnered six medals in Rio in 2016, led by Penny Oleksiak’s gold in the 100 free. At the 2019 World Championships, the Canadians yielded nine medals, including bronze in all three women’s relays thanks to newly minted world champs Maggie MacNeil and Kylie Masse.

The Canadian men, meanwhile, haven’t earned a medal in Rio or the last two Worlds. When Swimming Canada named provisional Olympians earlier this year as a hedge against Trials delays, only one of the seven was a man. There are 30 A cuts on the women’s side in Trials to just six on the men’s.

But hopes are high that Knox and others could push the men’s program to a level closer to that of the women.

Finlay Knox (photo: Mike Lewis)

Toronto Titans’ Finlay Knox; Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

“Canadian women’s swimming has kind of paved the way,” Knox told Swimming World last week. “The men’s side definitely has not been up to their standard for a long time. I think as one of the younger swimmers and seeing the women produce world record swims, world championship medals, it really motivates us on the guys’ side to step up and get to their level. And I think there’s a big group of us who see these women produce those fast times, and we want to be part of that success. We’re really pushing and bringing our game to get next level, and we’re excited to show what we’re working on.”

Knox has done his part. He parlayed a strong season for the Toronto Titans in the International Swimming League to a fast spring, even as the Canadian Olympic Trials were twice postponed until close to the last possible moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early May, at the same venue that will hold Trials, Knox went 1:58.88 in the 200 IM, setting a Canadian record. The FINA A cut ranks 37th in the world. It pairs with the short-course meters IM record he took during the ISL campaign.

“I was very pleased with getting under the record,” Knox said. “It was something that after my 200 IM in 2019 at World Juniors, I was three tenths off that record, so it was definitely in sight, but it wasn’t the focus. Times are kind of all over. Times in midseason don’t really matter. It’s just being able to get on the block, give it everything you’ve got and kind of see where you’re at. For me to be under that time, I was very, very happy with it but that was not the goal.”

Excitement around the Canadian men is growing again, and young swimmers like the 20-year-old Knox are a prime reason why. Markus Thormeyer, the only pre-selected Olympian, is just 23. The 400 freestyle relay that qualified as a Tokyo at-large in Toronto last month features both Brent Hayden, who is swimming near his pre-retirement best at age 37, and 18-year-old Joshua Liendo. Knox has seen Hayden as a leader firsthand with the Titans.

“It really just gets everyone else excited,” Knox said. “We get fueled up from fast swimming. And seeing the fast times all those guys did on that relay, it makes everyone want to step up and swim even faster and get to that next level.”

Knox will swim the 100 free, where he’ll look to carve out a spot in that relay (he’s seeded fifth), plus the 200 IM and 100 fly. After all the meets they’ve lost, he’s excited for one of the big ones to finally be here.

“I’m really excited,” Knox said. “It’s another swim meet that’s official this year. We’ve only had maybe two of them. I’m just excited to go up there, stand up and race everyone on the blocks and give my best effort for it.”

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Canada high performance

    Swimming Canada should be ashamed of the event they are hosting. John Atikison and Martyn Wilby should be held accountable and need to step down as head of Canadian swimming. As a Canadian swimmer I am deeply distributed by the Canadian swimming federation

  2. avatar
    Canada high performance

    I would love to see Finlay Nox swim at a men’s international level but he needs to leave Canada if he ever wants to reach past that age group level. Right now he is just a good swimmer for Canada and that is just Okay…. nothing to write home about. Would love to hear a real story about how athletes have been left out of selection and the ‘high performance’ swimmers have had unlimited resources while others can’t even attend the trials.