S7 Swimmers Sarah Mahein (left) and Tess Routliffe celebrate after winning gold and silver in the 50m free at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games.

Best friends and fierce competitors

Canadian swimmers Tess Routliffe and Sarah Mehain's relationship will take a new turn as they compete for a Paralympic medal

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Canada’s top S7 swimmers don’t just push each other inside the pool, they help keep each other afloat outside of it.

Tess Routliffe and Sarah Mehain, who finished first and second in the women’s S7 50-metre free at the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, will rely upon each other to do the same in Rio.

They advanced from their heats Friday and will be swimming in the final on Friday night at the Aquatic Stadium.

Although it will be tough to replicate their Parapan Am success against the world’s best, they will not be detered from embracing the moment.

“I felt pretty good. I really like racing everybody and getting the experience,” said Routliffe, a Caledon, Ont. native. “It’s going to be my first Paralympic final tonight, so that’s really exciting. So I’m just doing my thing and being happy.”

Mehain is also swimming in her first Paralympic final, after failing to make it through the preliminaries in 2012.

“I was really just happy to get into the final,” said the Vernon, B.C. native. “But, what I’m looking for tonight is to be competitive, and get a best time, hopefully.”

Best friends spend life-changing moments together, and there is no bigger moment for the combination of Routliffe and Mehain.

Despite differences in age, Routliffe, 17, and Mehain, 21, have managed to get along, um, swimmingly while competing against each other throughout their careers.

“It means everything (to have Mehain here). Sarah and I have such a good relationship. We are super competitive against each other, but she is also one of my best friends,” Routliffe said. “That relationship works it very well. We just push each other.”

The final goes Friday at 6.05 pm (5.05 pm ET), when the swimmers will have to put their friendship on hold for 35 seconds or less.

“We’re both very excited for each other and even more excited to race against each other,” Mehain said.