Mon, September 23, 2013

Brown rocked by swim loss

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Mike Brown finished 4th during the 200 metre men's breaststroke during the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Montreal, Que., March 28 March, 2012. (PHILIPPE-OLIVIER CONTANT/QMI Agency)

MONTREAL - Mike Brown broke down twice on Thursday night at the Olympic swim trials. Once in the pool and again afterwards.

One of the best swimmers Canada has ever produced, Brown was unable to earn a spot on the Olympic team for the 2012 London Games after finishing a disappointing fourth in the 200 metre breaststroke final.

And then afterwards, when he sat down with the media, the Perth, Ont., swimmer broke down and had to excuse himself for a few minutes while he regained his composure.

“I don’t know what happened. Everything’s been going really well over the past year and a half, 20 months I’ve been back. This morning felt great,” Brown said, before his feelings got the better of him and he was forced to take leave.

“That was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” he said, when he returned a couple of minutes later.

The 200 metre breaststroke has given Brown so much joy and grief over the years and Thursday night’s race was more of the latter.

Brown broke on to the international scene in a big way by finishing sixth in the event at the 2004 Athens Games and then he captured a silver medal, in Canadian record time, at the 2005 world championships.

Hoping to win a medal for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Brown touched the wall in 2:09.03 — an agonizing .09 seconds out of a podium spot. But that disappointment, he said, doesn’t compare to the devastation on Thursday night of not making the 2012 Olympic team.

Brown, 27, actually took over first place after the first 100 metres of the race, but said he lost it in the final 100 metres and faded to fourth, finishing in 2:14.95. Burlington, Ont., swimmer Scott Dickens, who swims for the Vancouver Dolphins, won in 2:12.69 and qualified for the Olympics in the event.

“To go six seconds off my Canadian record, that’s inexcusable for me, unexplainable for me,” said Brown.

Brown retired after the Beijing Olympics and sold commercial real estate for 18 months, before the competitive spirit kicked in and he began training again in the hopes of making his third Olympic team, and winning his first Olympic medal. But it’s not meant to be.

“This is a lot harder than Beijing, I can tell you that right from the get go,” said Brown. “That was really tough to go through, but in Beijing I missed my medal by .09. That sucked obviously, but I knew I still had a good race.”

Brown set a Canadian record in the semifinal in Beijing (2:08.84) and his fourth-place swim in the final (2:09.03) was his second-best time.

“But tonight, I’ve never been more confused in my career,” he said. “I’ve had a long career, I’ve been on the national team for a decade now. There’s no other way to explain it, other than I’m confused.

“Everything going in was great. Last year was good, training was great. I thought I was on track,” he continued. “I went faster in Toronto in the Canada Cup in November, and that was in season, not rested, not shaved down. How I went faster then and slower now is something I’ve never done in my career, ever. I’ve always been one to excel and really perform when it matters, perform on the day when it counts, in the highest pressure situations. I’ve never ever caved before. I don’t want to say that I caved tonight, I’m just so baffled on how it went down.

For Dickens, who qualified previously for London in the 100 breaststroke, the win in the 200 breast was bittersweet.

“It’s difficult to see one of our best swimmers in Canada and one of the best we ever had not make the team,” said Dickens. “I really feel for him, he’s one of my best friends in the sport.”

HUGE NIGHT FOR WOMEN FREESTYLERS

There must be something in the water.

At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, local swimmer Ann Jardin helped the Canadian team win bronze medals in the 4x100 medley and freestyle relay events.

And 36 years later, in the very same pool, her niece Barbara Jardin qualified for her first Olympic Games, winning the women’s 200 metre freestyle event on Thursday night in 1:57.34.

In fact, no fewer than four swimmers — Jardin, Samantha Cheverton of Pointe-Claire, Que., Brittany MacLean of Etobicoke and Amanda Reason of Windsor — swam under the Olympic qualifying time in the 200 free. Jardin and Cheverton will swim in the individual 200 free at the London Olympics, and the four will represent Canada in the 4x200 relay at the Games.

“Wow,” said Swim Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine, when asked about the times in Thursday’s race. “We were fourth in the world last year with a time that’s about two seconds slower than the add-up time that we have today. We’re in the hunt (for a relay medal in London).”

The only down side to the event was the fact that MacLean’s older sister, Heather, failed to swim under the Olympic standard. Brittany MacLean, who already qualified for London in the 400 free, was hoping Heather would make the 4x200 relay team. She finished fifth, over the Olympic standard.

“I wanted it for her so badly. Tonight was about Heather. I know she was ready and I know she gave it her heart and that’s all we can do,” said Brittany. “She still has the 200 coming up in a few days and I’m going to be on those stands cheering my heart out.”

Ryan Cochrane of Victoria, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist in the 1500 free, won the 400 free Thursday night (3:47.07) and qualified for London in the event.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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