Michelle Williams in a shot from a Swimming Canada media guide

Michelle Williams sets Trials record in 100m freestyle

Home pool advantage comes in handy for Toronto swimmer

Michelle Williams picked the perfect time and place to set a new personal best in the women’s 100 metre freestyle.

A finish of 54.21 put the Toronto native at the top of the podium on Thursday while also breaking a Team Canada Trials record previously held by Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in 2012.

The win qualified Williams for the upcoming Pan Am Games and World Championships. Her familiarity with the venue didn’t hurt.

“It’s awesome to be able to train here and to know the facility,” Williams said, after her race at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. “My house is just down the street so it’s pretty nice.”

Williams received additional support from her two closest competitors in the race, Sandrine Mainville, who finished third with a time of 54.48, and Chantal van Landeghem, who finished second with a time of 54.31.

Though van Landeghem goes to school in the United States, she has been a welcome element when she trains in Canada.

“She’s amazing,” Williams said of van Landeghem. “She’s such a positive girl and she’s so much fun to train with and be around. She’s graduating from (the University of) Georgia and training with us starting in May.

“But the girl who came in third, Sandy Mainville, is my teammate every single day. I’ve trained with her, I did every single set with her, and the three of us being together on the podium was our coach’s goal from the start and we each did that.

“He’s really happy.”

Van Landeghem had previously helped to lower the Canadian 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay record at the 2013 FINA World Championships.

She was as happy for Williams as she was for herself.

“Michelle has been working so hard all year and she deserves that,” van Landeghem said. “I just wanted to come out tonight and get on the team and the time was even better so I’m super happy.”

The win did not come easy for Williams. Her teammates were neck and neck with her until the very end.

“I really didn’t know where anyone else was in the race,” Williams said. “Maybe on the first turn, but I just put my head down and gave it everything I had.

“When I touched the wall, I didn’t really know that I had won until maybe 10 or 15 seconds later. I had a bit of a delayed reaction.”