Kylie Jacqueline Masse, swimmer (born 18 January 1996 in Windsor, ON). One of the best backstroke swimmers in the world, Kylie Masse has won two silver medals and two bronze medals at the Olympic Summer Games. She and Penny Oleksiak are tied for the most medals won by a Canadian woman at the FINA World Championships, with five. In 2017, Masse set a world record in the women’s 100 m backstroke (58.10 seconds) and became the first Canadian woman to win gold at the World Championships. She also holds the Canadian record in the 200 m backstroke. She repeated her gold medal victory at the 2019 World Championships and was named Swimming Canada’s Female Swimmer of the Year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Kylie Masse is the middle child of Louie and Cindy Masse. She has an older brother, Daniel, and a younger sister, Natalie. As a child, Kylie and her family moved to LaSalle, just south of Windsor, Ontario. It was in LaSalle that Kylie first learned to swim. Cindy Masse encouraged all her children to swim and remembered how quickly Kylie got through her swimming lessons. Kylie also played soccer and hockey as a child.
Early Swimming Career
In the pool, it took time for Kylie to impress her coach on the Windsor Essex Swim Team. Kylie had started swimming at age three, but coach Andrei Semenov did not see much potential. According to Jim Parker of the Windsor Star, Semenov said, “She was so small. She was one of the smallest girls.” She eventually got taller, growing to a height of 5-foot-8.
Kylie was part of the Windsor Essex Swim Team from age eight to 18. She first competed for the team at the 2009 International Children’s Games in Athens, Greece, even though she was not ranked in the top 50 in any event for her age group in Canada.
In 2011, Kylie competed at the International Children’s Games in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and won five medals. That same season, she set a meet record in the girls’ 100 m butterfly (15-year-old division) at the Ontario Junior Provincial Championship. She also won gold in the girls’ 50 m butterfly (15-year-old division) at the Canadian Age Group Championships in Montreal.
While attending high school, Masse received a great deal of interest from university scouts in both Canada and the United States. There was significant interest from University of Toronto swim coach Byron MacDonald, one of the top swim coaches in Canada. Masse was invited to MacDonald’s Toronto home for Thanksgiving dinner, and the coach made a positive impression. Masse decided to attend the University of Toronto, where she studied kinesiology.
As a freshman at the 2015 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships, Masse won four gold medals. She was also named the OUA rookie of the year and received the Dr. Jeno Tihanyi Memorial Bursary. Later that year, she won gold in the 100 m backstroke at the 2015 Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea, with a time of 59.97 seconds. She also placed first in the women’s 200 m backstroke with a time of 2:09.70 at the 2015 Canadian National Swimming Championships in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.
2016 Olympic Summer Games
Leading up to her first Olympic Summer Games, Masse won three gold medals in individual backstroke events at the 2016 CIS National Championships in Quebec City. She was also named the 2016 CIS Women’s Swimmer of the Year for the first of four straight years.
At the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Masse tied for bronze with Yuanhui Fu of China in the women’s 100 m backstroke with a time of 58.76 seconds. After the Olympics, Masse competed in her hometown of Windsor at the 13th FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m). She won silver medals in the women’s 100 m backstroke and women’s 4x100 m medley relay.
Masse began her 2017 season with four individual medals at the U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Swimming Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec. After beating her Canadian record in the 100 m backstroke with a time of 58.21 at the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials, Masse entered the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, as a medal contender. She recorded a world record time of 58.10 seconds in the women’s 100 m backstroke, which made her the first Canadian female swimmer to win gold at the World Championships. Her team in the mixed 4x100 m medley relay won bronze and set a new Canadian record. Masse was also named Swimming Canada’s Female Swimmer of the Year for the first of three consecutive years.
In 2018, Masse opened the year with three backstroke gold medals at an international meet in Uster, Switzerland. That was followed by four gold medals in individual events (three in backstroke and one in butterfly) at the 2018 U Sports Swimming Championship in Masse’s home pool at the University of Toronto. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, Masse received the Canadian Commonwealth Excellence Award after placing first in the women’s 100 m and 200 m backstroke and second in the women’s 50 m backstroke. At the end of the year, Masse also won gold in the women’s 100 m backstroke at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo.
Defending World Title
By the 2019 season, Masse had established herself as one of the world’s best backstroke swimmers. She won three more gold medals in backstroke at the 2019 U Sports Championships in Vancouver, bringing her career individual totals to 13 gold, six silver and one bronze. At the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Masse won her second consecutive gold medal in the women’s 100 m backstroke with a time of 58.60 seconds. She also won bronze medals in the women’s 200 m backstroke and the women’s 4x100 m medley relay.
2020 Olympic Summer Games
With the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo delayed a full year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Masse and other athletes had an extra year to prepare. She used the time to get stronger. She won six gold medals in the International Swimming League in Hungary in the fall of 2020, along with gold in the women’s 100 m and 200 m backstroke events at the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Toronto.
Masse entered the Olympic Games as a multiple medal threat. She came away with two silver medals and one bronze. She placed second in the women’s 100 m backstroke and the women’s 200 m backstroke, and third in the women’s 4x100 m medley relay. Masse’s time of 57.72 seconds in the women’s 100 m backstroke was two one-hundredths of a second slower than the Canadian record time of 57.70 seconds she set at the 2021 Canadian Olympic swimming trials. In the women’s 200 m backstroke, Masse posted a Canadian record time of 2:05.42 for her second Olympic silver medal in Tokyo. Masse swam the backstroke leg in the women’s 4x100 m medley relay with Sydney Pickrem, Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak to help Canada win bronze.