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GOLD! London erupts over Maggie Mac Neil's trailblazing Olympic win

'It was pretty amazing to watch her.'

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London swimmer Maggie Mac Neil won Canada’s first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, in the women’s 100-metre butterfly, setting off waves of elation back in her hometown and nationwide Sunday night.

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A 55.59-second swim earned Mac Neil the gold, finishing just 0.05 of a second ahead of China’s Zhang Yufei. Mac Neil’s time broke the American and Canadian records in the event, and stands as the third-best in Olympic history.

“It was pretty amazing to watch her,” said Ashley Daponte, who with her children Caitlin and Nicholas were among the 200 London Aquatic Club (LAC) members watching the race together on a local drive-in’s big screen. “It’s nice to see a Canadian bring home gold.”

And talk about a pool haul – Mac Neil, a 21-year-old LAC alumnus, can add that gold to the women’s 4x100m freestyle silver she won 24 hours earlier.

Making the golden moment even more amazing? At one point while training during the facility-shutting pandemic, Mac Neil – now the Olympic champion – was forced to use her family’s backyard pool. But her LAC friends never doubted her Tokyo Games chances.

The gathered clubmates cheered and screamed Sunday night during the race. They watched as Mac Neil squinted at the leader board immediately after the finish and shouted out a jubilant “oh my god” when she realized she’d won gold.

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“Our club is like a family, so it’s like we’re all supporting a family member,” said 14-year-old London Aquatic Club member Leah Boulianne.

Londoners erupted on social media over the win. And Clearly Mac Neil feels the same way about her hometown. “I can’t wait to come back to London and celebrate with you all,” she said in a television interview.

The support back home, she added, “means the world.”

Thirteen-year-old London Aquatic Club member David Maar, who also watched at the Oxford Drive-In Sunday night, said he thought Saturday’s freestyle relay silver likely gave Mac Neil a boost of confidence. “She didn’t have to worry about coming home empty-handed.”

More than 200 members of the London Aquatic Club gathered at the Oxford Drive-In to watch clubmate Maggie Mac Neil win women’s 100-metre butterfly gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (MEGAN STACEY/The London Free Press)
More than 200 members of the London Aquatic Club gathered at the Oxford Drive-In to watch clubmate Maggie Mac Neil win women’s 100-metre butterfly gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (MEGAN STACEY/The London Free Press)

Far from it. The University of Michigan swimmer has had a hand in Canada’s first gold and silver medals at the Tokyo Games.

Mac Neil, a Banting high school graduate, is no stranger to the hardware after picking up a gold and two bronze medals in her world championship debut in 2019 as a 19-year-old. The performance raised her profile nationwide as the Tokyo Games loomed.


SOCIAL MEDIA ERUPTS FOR MAGGIE MAC NEIL’S GOLD:

Maggie Mac Neil’s golden moment in Tokyo sparked an outpouring of joy and pride in London and across Canada. Here’s a sampling of the reaction on social media:

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