There were no Pinky And The Brain moments along Kylie Masse’s journey from obscurity to international celebrity, Olympian and world champion.
When people asked about her goals a few years back, when she didn’t even rate a spot among the top 200 female backstroke swimmers in the world, Masse wouldn’t pronounce that she was intent on trying to take over the world.
No, she set bar much at a much lower level.
Her objective? To get better every day. To constantly continue her improvement as a competitive swimmer.
“You’re always trying to take that next step and keep improving,” Masse explained as to her daily ritual when she awoke early each morning before the sun rose to trek to the pool and put in her laps, a level of commitment then known only to those closest to her.
“It’s just progress, keeping up with training, getting back in the water after each race and doing different things to try and be the best that I can.”
Her mission led the 20-year-old swimmer from LaSalle, Ont. to that spot she never allowed herself to realistically envision in 2014 when she was ranked 201st in the world – to No. 1 on the planet, the fastest female 100-metre backstroke swimmer that’s ever jumped in a pool.
When Masse won her signature event at the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, she not only became the first Canadian female to win a world title, she did so in world-record fashion, stopping the clock at 58.10 seconds, snapping the mark of 58.12 that had stood since 2009.
To encompass the rapid rise of Masse from unknown to the best there’s ever been can seem mind-boggling. More significantly, it is not only inspirational, but also reaffirming that anyone with a goal in front of them can achieve the seemingly impossible if they are willing to put in the time and effort that it requires in order to make that journey.
“I think that’s something I think about a lot,” Masse admitted. “I wasn’t really an on-the-radar athlete. I kind of came from nowhere and improved pretty quickly.
“I think that can give a lot of people hope and inspiration.”
Masse first gained notice in university, where she won several national titles and set USport records competing for the Toronto Varsity Blues. But that still was a long reach from there to international acclaim and Olympic status.
The latter came in 2016, when she earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic team and won a bronze medal at the Rio Summer Games in the 100 backstroke, setting a Canadian record in the process.
Masse wasn’t just on the radar. She was in orbit.
“I think when I made the Olympic team that was kind of an eye-opening experience for me and obviously a dream to make that Olympic team,” Masse said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I made the team. Let’s see what I can do.’”
What she has done is take the swimming world by storm and show that as long as you have a passion for something and are willing to keep chipping away at the task in front of you, dreams do come true.
“You don’t have to be going to certain meets and doing certain times at certain ages,” Masse said. “If you set a goal and you have a dream and you keep working hard, you can accomplish it.”
Every day, she took those baby steps, and all that dedication, sacrifice and work ethic eventually led her to take the most significant step of all.
The one that put her on top of the world.