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13 April 2020 | in Summer FISU World University Games

Canadian gold medal winner cherishes Universiade experience that introduced her to international competition

Masse Gwanju2015 swim gold 1

It’s almost fate the way gold medal swimmer Kylie Masse made the Canadian team that competed at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea.


Masse Gwangju2015 swim gold 4In the April trials, top performers would represent Canada at the Pan-Am Games, which were being held in Toronto. The other swimmers would go to the Universiade. Masse, who studied at the University of Toronto, had a disappointing result in the competition. Instead of swimming in her adopted home city, she’d soon be en route to the other side of the world.


“I was happy to be on the team regardless,” she said. “My coach likes to say that it really helped shape me moving forward.”


Three months later, Masse won gold in the women’s 100-metre backstroke event at the Summer Universiade, her first major international event.


“It’s always an honour to represent Canada and also your university,” she said.


“It gave me so much confidence in my swimming and the results that I achieved there propelled me to where I am now.”

Masse Gwangju2015 swim gold 3Canadian swimmer Kylie Masse (centre) at the post-event press conference after her gold medal performance in the 100m backstroke with Americans Elizabeth Patton (silver medalist, left) and bronze medalist Rachel Bootsma

At the Universiade, Masse adopted a mentality that’s since fueled her to an Olympic bronze medal, two Commonwealth Games golds, a world record, and countless other podium finishes and accomplishments.


“I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” she said, of the approach that she used in Gwangju. “I would just get up and race. I think that’s so important for me to remember now. I had no expectations and no idea of what I could do.”


After her victory, Masse received messages on social media from dozens of Canadian athletes.


“Getting that recognition from older swimmers that I looked up to really opened my eyes and gave me confidence,” she said.


“FISU really gave me that experience of racing on a bigger stage and gave me confidence.”


In addition to swimming, Masse had the chance to tour and explore Gwangju, a city she’d then win gold in again at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships.



Following the Universiade, Masse returned to her studies at the University of Toronto. She represented Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, setting a national record and winning bronze in the 100-metre backstroke while at the Games. She then won two golds at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. She’s the current world champion in the 100-metre backstroke.


“Having that international experience at FISU really set me up well for the Commonwealth Games and Olympics,” she said. “You learn how to focus on what you’re doing and what you want to achieve and your goals while at the same time enjoy it a little bit.”

Masse Gwamgju2015 swim gold 2A strong second length in the Gwangju 2015 Summer Universiade finals saw Kylie Masse dip under the magical one minute mark (59.97) in the women's 100m backstroke event

Unlike many Canadian Olympians, Masse opted to stay in Canada for school and compete in U SPORTS.


“It gave me so many opportunities to race and there were as many opportunities to learn as there were to train,” she said. “I was able to use those races as platforms to set me up for more international competition.”


Like most of the world, Masse is currently practicing social distancing and keeping safe during the Pandemic. She’s spending it with her family in her hometown of LaSalle, four hours south of Toronto.


“This is one of the longer times I’ve ever been out of the water,” she said.


“It’s pretty crazy but it’s comforting knowing that the rest of the world is in the same position.”