Hilary Caldwell competes in the 200-m backstroke Wendesday at the Pan-Am Games.

Hilary Caldwell competes in the 200-m backstroke Wendesday at the Pan-Am Games.

Caldwell sets record at Pan-Am Games

White Rock swimmer notches gold in the 200-m backstroke event Wednesday in Toronto.

Hilary Caldwell helped lead Canada to an impressive day in the pool Wednesday at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto.

Caldwell, a 24-year-old native of White Rock and Pacific Sea Wolves Swim Club alum, and her Canadian teammate, Dominique Bouchard of Quebec, finished first and second, respectively, in the women’s 200-m backstroke.

Caldwell’s gold medal was one of a handful won by Canadian swimmers – Canada ended the day with seven podium finishes.

The White Rock swimmer – who won bronze in the same event at the 2013 World Championships – also set a new Pan-Am Games record with her time of two minutes, 8.22 seconds.

After the race, Caldwell said swimming in front on a Canadian crowd helped spur her on.

“It’s fun to be able to light it up in front of a home crowd, that’s for sure,” she told Canadian Press.

When receiving their medals on the podium after the race, Caldwell pulled Bouchard up to the gold-medal step with her to celebrate.

“It was a nice gesture to bring me up on the podium with her,” Bouchard said.

For Caldwell – whose official Swimming Canada bio makes mention of her numerous tattoos, calling her “the most inked member of the national team – the win was the perfect way to honour the memory of former national team coach, Randy Bennett, who died of cancer in April at just 51 years old.

Caldwell’s newest tattoo reads “Make It So” – one of Bennett’s  inspirational words of wisdom he’d often pass on to his swimmers.

On Friday night, Caldwell missed a second Pan-Am medal, finishing fifth in the women’s 100-m backstroke finals. In heats earlier in the week, she’d finished first.

Canada is currently second in the overall medal standings with 144 total medals – including 54 gold – and trail only the United States, which has 165 total medals.

Next on the agenda for Caldwell and her Canadian teammates are FINA World Championships, which begin July 24 in Kazan, Russia.

One more Peninsula native – former Elgin Park Secondary and UBC alum Luc Bruchet – is set to compete at the Pan-Am Games this week.

On Saturday, Bruchet is scheduled to run the men’s 5,000-m.

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