Mon, September 23, 2013

Olympic relay team a bonus

By Steve Buffery, QMI Agency


Brent Hayden (C) smiles following his win in the men's 100m freestyle finals at the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Montreal Friday night. Hayden qualified for the Olympics with Richard Hortness (2nd L), Colin Russell (L) and Thomas Gossland (bottom R). (REUTERS)

 On the wings of former world champion Brent Hayden, Canada has qualified a team for the 2012 London Olympics in the men’s 4x100 metre relay, and in doing so made a little history.

Hayden easily won the men’s 100-metre freestyle final at the Canadian Olympic swim trials on Friday in 48.53 — not his best time by a long shot. His national record is 47.27, but there was nobody in Friday’s race to seriously push him and the Vancouver Dolphins swimmer had already qualified in the event.

However, just his presence in the race seemed to lift the rest of the field as the next three finishers swam fast enough to allow Canada to enter a 4x100-metre relay team in London. And that, said Swim Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine, is a bonus.

“I think we’ve got to keep building our (national team) on relays,” said Lafontaine. “When there’s four kids fighting for a spot, then there’s eight fighting for a spot. And the next guy after that is 18-year-old Luke Peddie, who missed (the qualifying standard) by 7/100ths.”

Hayden, 28, appeared disappointed after his swim but took the time with a grain of salt.

“I think my fitness level was fast enough to go, say, 47.9 and match what I did last summer, but I think it just came down to execution,” he said. “I haven’t done a whole lot of long course racing this season. So I think it’s just getting in there and just racing more.

“For me, going 48.5 at this point of the season is faster than I’ve ever been at this point,” he added. “The only other time when I’ve been 48.5 mid-season was when we still had the full body suit. So this is actually a really good spot.”

One of the three swimmers who finished behind Hayden was Colin Russell of Burlington, Ont. Russell will join his sister Sinead, who has already qualified in the 100 back, on the Olympic team, becoming the first siblings to earn a spot on Canada’s Olympic swim team in 36 years. Becky and Graham Smith were on the 1976 team.

The Russells have an interesting background, to say the least.

Their dad, Cecil, is a former swim coach who made headlines over the years for his behaviour outside of the swimming pool. Cecil was banned from coaching for life in 1997 for his involvement in an international steroid trafficking ring. His ban was lifted in 2005, but he was banned again in 2007. Colin and Sinead now both swim for the Toronto Blue Waves Swim Club. Sinead, 18, is now coached by her mom, Erin, and Colin, 27, is coached by Byron MacDonald. For Colin, making his second Olympic team (he was on the 2008 team) was especially sweet given the fact that his younger sister is also going to London.

“Back in ’09 was the first time I had my sister on the national team with me and I wanted to continue that all the way to the Olympics,” said Russell, who finished the 100 free last night in third (49.69), behind Hayden and Richard Hortness of the London Aquatic Club, who went 49.21. “I like being there for her.”

Russell’s time was also well behind his personal best (48.92), but he did well just to finish in the top four given that he’s had to deal with major shoulder issues since 2007.

“I missed out on two months on really good training (last fall) and I still swam relatively well, so if I get the good training in (before London) without any more shoulder problems it will be pretty spectacular what I think I can do,” he said.

There’s concern that Hayden, who captured the gold in the 100 free at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne and added to that medal tally by earning a silver medal at last year’s worlds in Shanghai, is not swimming fast enough to win a medal at the London Games, but the Mission, B.C. native is optimistic that he will be there. 2012 promises to be a big year in more ways than one for Hayden.

“I’m getting married a week after the closing ceremony,” he said. “We’re going to Lebanon to get married. That’s where my fiancee originally is from.”

Hayden is engaged to singer Nadina Zarifeh.

The fourth qualifier in Friday’s 100 free was Thomas Gossland of the Vancouver Dolphins, who finished Friday’s 100 final in 49.98.