When Kylie Masse looks around the pool deck at Toronto’s Pan Am Centre, she sees a lot of friendly, familiar faces from Canada’s swimming community.
But what the 27-year-old Masse doesn’t see is many of her peers, as most of the swimmers she grew up competing against have retired from the sport.
Realizing that she has become one of Canada’s most experienced swimmers, Masse hopes to lead by example.
“I think even the simplest of things like showing up on time, being respectful, listening whether that’s listening to your coach or listening to your teammates, engaging with people,” Masse said on Monday morning, sitting on a poolside bench. “Just being mindful of everyone’s situations, everyone’s races and supporting one another.
“They all seem like simple things, but I feel like when you do them all it’s leadership.”
Masse, from LaSalle, Ont., will be competing in several events at the Canadian swimming trials where Swimming Canada will select its teams for this summer’s world championships and other international competitions such as the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, a stepping-stone to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The trials begin Tuesday, with morning and evening heats for junior, senior and Paralympic swimmers.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing about sport,” said Masse about the junior races. “Now being someone older and seeing younger swimmers come up and hopefully inspire them and mentor them through their journey just as people before me helped me, I think that’s great.
“I hope that I can do that for swimmers across Canada and around the world as well.”
Javier Acevedo, a two-time Olympian, said there was no underestimating the importance of the national trials.
“It’s absolutely a huge week for Canadian swimming,” he said poolside. “This will be the qualifiers for world championships but it’s also the meet that qualifies relays for the Olympics.
“So it’s actually absolutely huge so we have our best teams there and that we’re ready to go when the time comes in July.”
Masse said she’s spent most of 2023 preparing for a new Olympic cycle after a busy fall of travel and competitions.
“I focused a little bit more on my underwaters and I’ve tried to change things up a little bit,” said Masse, who will be competing every day this week, except Wednesday, at the trials. “So I’m excited to see how I execute that in the race.”
A four-time Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in the 100-metre backstroke, Masse said she still gets excited for the national trials.
“I always get excited to race, period,” Masse said. “For it to be a trials, you know, anything can happen so I always want to make sure I’m ready to go.”
Acevedo wants to represent Canada internationally again, but his goals for the national trials are more modest.
“I know it sounds cliché, but just have fun,” he said. “When I have fun I don’t really think about races too much, I just swim well.
“I just have like no pressure because I’ve done this for so many years. I just want to be able to get out there and smile a bit.”
Acevedo said winning his opening heats was important, however, because that would allow him to choose the walkout song for his events’ finals.
“It’s just about having fun and then, if the time goes well, like it should, then I know that my training is going well,” said Acevedo, who said he’d likely choose Miley Cyrus’s Party in the U.S.A. or something Spanish as a nod to his South American roots.
“Nothing too explicit though, that’s for sure. Gotta keep it PG.”