Kylie Masse begins the first day of class differently than most Kinesiology students. At a mid-morning media avail, she’s flanked by University of Toronto Varsity Blues Sports Information Coordinator Jill Clark and Events & Marketing manager Mary Beth Challoner. The trio make small talk until the clock strikes 10.
Masse sits in the stands above the Varsity Pool, overlooking the sight where she dominated at the OUA Championships earlier this year, and recounts her eventful summer, headlined by her world record performance at the World Championships in Budapest and concluded by a parade in her honour in her hometown of LaSalle, Ontario in mid-August.
The event reminded the Olympic bronze medalist of her own childhood and how impactful it was for her at a young age to meet an Olympian or an older athlete. “It was pretty neat honestly, it was really eye-opening and meant a lot… I hope to continue to be that role model for kids out there, for girls and females in swimming and every other sport as well.”
The 21-year-old Masse understands the impact and importance of being the first Canadian female swimming world record holder. Almost two months have passed since her feat, but she’s still processing her record time of 58.10 and can’t recount the specific aspects of the race explaining that “it’s all kind of a bit of a blur.”
“It happened so fast, I turned around and looked at the scoreboard a few times to double-check that I was seeing what I saw,” Masse says. “I did several interviews right after in a row and I didn’t really know how to process the information because I didn’t really know how I felt, but it was super exciting.”
After the race, Masse didn’t have much time to celebrate the accomplishment. She enjoyed her time on the podium but with a race the following morning, Masse needed to focus on her next challenge.
“Social media was crazy and my phone was blowing up which was awesome and [it] means so much to have that much support and recognition,” Masse says. “I had to put my phone down because I needed to go to sleep, I need to reset, and I still had to race like another five times. It definitely took more days to sink in then it probably should’ve, but I mean I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”
The four first place finishes she earned at the OUA Championships in February are almost incomparable to her more recent accolades, but her growth and development are a clear byproduct of U of T’s historic swim program. Masse believes she left LaSalle with a “good technical foundation,” but emphasizes that her coaches Byron MacDonald and Linda Kiefer have played a key role in her evolution in the pool and her ability to balance swimming and school.
“When I got here [my technical ability] just grew immensely and I think I gained a lot of strength and learned a lot about myself in the pool and out of the pool,” Masse says. “Byron and Linda have always been there for everything that I need in the pool and out of the pool as well.”
Masse displays flashes of her small-town roots, remarking on the vast availability of drop-in dance classes in Toronto in comparison to LaSalle. “I like dancehall, which is a Caribbean music, and beginner hip-hop,” Masse explains to the Kinesiology Department’s Communications Specialist Jelena Damjanovic when asked about what she does in her free time. Masse also admits that the day before the interview was her first return to the pool after a month-long layoff.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia are her next major objective for Canada. She laughs, “The official team hasn’t been named yet but I think I have a pretty good shot of being on the team.” Masse also looks forward to the U Sports Championships that will be hosted at the Varsity Pool on February 22-–24, 2018. She hopes her fellow students will come out and support the team.
“The most important thing for me is enjoying to swim, and that’s when you swim fast,” Masse says. “I kind of like to say a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer.”