Mon, September 23, 2013

Toronto's MacLean shatters swim record

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Brittany MacLean (right) is hugged by Savannah King following her win in the women's 400m freestyle at the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Montreal, Que., March 27, 2012. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters)

MONTREAL - When Toronto sisters Brittany and Heather MacLean were little girls, they dreamed of representing Canada at the Olympic Games.

That dream is one step closer to reality today.

Brittany, at 18, a year younger than her sister, stunned the crowd at the Olympic swim trials in Montreal on Tuesday night by winning the 400-metre freestyle in a Canadian record four minutes, 6.08 seconds. The previous mark of 4:07.32 was set by Brittany Reimer way back in 2005, in the same Olympic Pool in Montreal.

Perhaps the most amazing part of her performance was the fact that MacLean absolutely destroyed her personal best — set last year in winning the gold medal at the world junior championships in Lima, Peru — by a phenomenal four seconds plus.

“Honestly, I did. I knew I could do it,” said MacLean, when asked if she felt that she had a Canadian record performance in her. “I knew it was going to be a good race. I trained so hard for this day, so I knew it was going to be good, (though) I didn’t know it was going to be that good. But I’m so excited to make Canada proud this summer.”

As she made her way over to a crowd of reporters at the mixed zone after her swim, MacLean suddenly broke away and ran over to a group of friends and Etobicoke Swim Club teammates. Two minutes of hugs and tears later, she was back talking about how her wish now is for Heather to also qualify for the London, later this week, either in the 200 free or 4x200 metre relay.

“I looked up to her my whole life,” said Brittany of her sister. “She was the record holder in the 200 free. I wasn’t even swimming freestyle before, but I took it up and it’s my best event and, you know what, I just wanted to be exactly like her from Day One. She is my idol.”

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for the grade 12 student at Silverthorn Collegiate. At the age of 17, she qualified for the 2011 world senior championships in Shanghai, helping the 4x200 freestyle relay team make the final. And in the summer of 2011, she captured two golds (in the 200 and 400 free) at the world juniors in Lima, Peru. And all of that despite battling a sore back for much of the season.

The cradle certainly rocked during the first day of the Olympic swim trials. Nineteen-year old-Savannah King of the Vancouver Dolphins club also broke Reimer’s mark, finishing second behind MacLean in an impressive 4:07.02 and also qualified for London.

In the race before that, another teenager, 18-year-old Alec Page of Island Swimming in Victoria, qualified for London by winning the men’s 400-metre Individual Medley in 4:17.78. And then local Montreal swimmer Katerine Savard, who is also 18, punched her ticket to London by winning the women’s 100 butterfly in 58.45.

Swim Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine was not surprised that the first day at the Olympic swim trials turned into Teen Night. The last four or five years, Swim Canada has put an emphasis on its junior program, and that seems to be paying dividends now. At the world juniors, Canada finished second overall with three gold medallists.

“The up and coming kids are setting the tone here,” said Lafontaine. “But having guys like Scott Dickens qualify (for London) brings some maturity to the team.”

Dickens won the 100 breast in 1:00.43, just off his Canadian record 1:00.23, while Victoria’s Blake Worsley, 24, qualified for London by winning the men’s 200 free in 1:49.06.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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