Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Elite swimmers believe that if they’re out of the water for an extended period of time they’ll lose a feel for their stroke. That’s why Canadian Olympian Kylie Masse went to extreme lengths to keep that sensation in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masse went back to her parents’ home in LaSalle, Ont., in the spring of 2020 when the first wave in Canada shut down pools and any kind of group training. Once it was warm enough to open the backyard pool the two-time world champion tied a tether to the fence so she could swim static every day for a span of weeks.

“I was fortunate to have that because just having access to the water is so important in our sport,” said Masse. “If you’re out of the water for three days you kind of lose the feel for the water a little bit.

Story continues below advertisement

“So having not had that for a while and then having access to my backyard pool was really, really helpful.”

Masse said that training on a harness is completely different than swimming actual laps in an Olympic-sized pool. Obviously, there are no turns when tethered and no split times. Masse also said the tether would effect her balance and body position in the water.

But getting back that feel of being in the water after months off because of the pandemic was priceless to Masse.

“It isn’t comparable to what we normally do but at the same time, just being in the water and feeling the water and even just kicking statically or sculling gives you that sense of feel for the water that you that you need to build off of,” said Masse.

A member of the University of Toronto’s swim team, Masse and varsity head coach Byron MacDonald agreed that she should leave the program in mid-June because the school’s pool remained closed. That allowed her to start training at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, sharing the pool and weight room with other swimmers on Canada’s national team.

“It was tough to be in a new program, having a new schedule, and doing different sets, and just different weight program and different everything,” said Masse. “But at the same time, I was very fortunate to be in that incredible group, and to be welcomed into that incredible group of athletes and coaches and support staff and have access to the resources at the National Centre to help me on this journey.”

MacDonald said that of the hundreds of elite swimmers he’s coached over his career Masse has distinguished herself with her consistency both in and out of pool. He thinks that steady nature has helped her to thrive under the pressure of high-leverage situations like national competitions.

Story continues below advertisement

“She is so self-driven. She does not demand special attention,” said MacDonald. “She’s very, very humble. You would never know that this woman is one of the finest athletes in the country in any sport.”

Swimming Canada invoked an unforeseen circumstances clause in January to nominate a half-dozen athletes in events in which they excel. Masse made the list in the women’s 100- and 200-metre backstroke.

Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Toronto’s Penny Oleksiak, Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., world champion butterflyer Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., also pre-qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Although it was a relief to pre-qualify for Canada’s Olympic team, Masse said that her unconventional training program – starting with being tethered to a fence post in her parents’ backyard – improved her mental toughness.

“I’ve been able to get a better grasp of handling (the uncertainty of the pandemic),” said Masse. “I’m trying to balance that and not get too high on the highs and don’t get too low on the lows.

“Just keep staying positive and to keep looking forward.”

Story continues below advertisement

Masse will begin her Olympics on Sunday with the 100-metre backstroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the lead-up to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies