Swimming Canada is ringing in the New Year with the announcement of the 2017 Big Splash Award winners, a backstroke-heavy who’s who of the country’s top swimmers.
A pair of world-record setting backstrokers headline the awards, with Kylie Masse taking Female Swimmer of the Year (Olympic Program), while Shelby Newkirk is the Female Para-swimmer of the Year.
Masse became Canada’s first female world champion at the FINA World Championships when she won the 100-m backstroke in Budapest in an unprecedented 58.10. It was the country’s first world record on the Olympic program side since Annamay Pierse (200-m breaststroke) in 2009.
Meanwhile, Newkirk followed up at the Para-swimming Canadian Open with a historic 1:21.43 to establish a new world mark in the S7 100-m backstroke. Newkirk and her teammates overcame the postponement of the World Para Swimming Championships due to the Mexico City earthquake and regrouped for the impromptu meet at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
That included Paralympic legend Benoît Huot, who earns his 12th Swimming Canada Male Para-swimmer of the Year award. Huot’s S10 100-m backstroke time of 1:01.06 was deemed the top performance of the Para-swimming Canadian Open.
Rounding out the Big Splash slate are Javier Acevedo and Yuri Kisil as co-Male Swimmer of the Year (Olympic Program) winners, and Richard Weinberger as Open Water Swimmer of the Year. Kisil finished 10th in the 100-m freestyle in Budapest and helped both the 4×100-m free and 4×100-m medley mixed relays to bronze medals. Acevedo made the 100-m backstroke semifinal in Budapest, finishing 14th in 54.11, while Weinberger was the top Canadian in the 10-km marathon, coming 23rd.
Each athlete’s qualified coach also receives a Coach of the Year award for the associated category: Linda Kiefer of the University of Toronto (Female Swimmer), Tom Johnson of the High Performance Centre – Vancouver (Male Swimmer), Eric Kramer of Saskatoon Laser Swim Club (Female Para-swimmer), Benoit Lebrun of Académie de Natation de Montréal (Male Para-swimmer), and Ron Jacks of Pacific Coast Swimming (Open Water Swimmer).
Complete list of 2017 Big Splash Award winners:
Female Swimmer of the Year: Kylie Masse, 21, Windsor, Ont. (Gold, 100m Backstroke, Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships, 58.10, World Record)
Coach of The Year (Female Swimmer): Linda Kiefer, University of Toronto
Male Swimmer of the Year: Yuri Kisil, 22, Calgary (10th, 100m Freestyle, Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships, 48.50)/Javier Acevedo, 19, Scarborough, Ont. (14th, 100m Backstroke, Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships, 54.11)
Coach of The Year (Male Swimmer): Tom Johnson, High Performance Centre – Vancouver
Open Water Swimmer of the Year: Richard Weinberger, 27, Victoria (23rd, 10km Marathon, Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships)
Coach of the Year (Open Water Swimmer): Ron Jacks, Pacific Coast Swimming
Female Para-swimmer of the Year: Shelby Newkirk, 21, Saskatoon (100m Backstroke S7, Toronto 2017 Para-Swimming Canadian Open, 1:21.43, World Record)
Coach of the Year (Female Para-swimmer): Eric Kramer, Saskatoon Laser Swim Club
Male Para-swimmer of the Year: Benoît Huot, 33, Longueuil, Que. (100m Backstroke S10, Toronto 2017 Para-Swimming Canadian Open, 1:01.06)
Coach of the Year (Male Para-swimmer): Benoit Lebrun, Académie De Natation De Montréal
Photo and Story: Swimming Canada