Britain's loss is Canada's gain

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Britain's best marathoner now is cleared to compete for Canada, but he's keeping such a low profile in Victoria, B.C., that Athletics Canada doesn't even have his phone number.

They might need it if Jon Brown qualifies for this summer's Olympics in Beijing at a race in Tokyo, Japan next month by running Athletics Canada's tough Olympic time standard of two hours, 12 minutes, 38 seconds.

"I'm just going to keep a low profile and get on with it," Brown, 36, said. "It shouldn't be a problem if I'm healthy."

Brown sounded startled when reached by phone at home and isn't exactly a chatterbox. He said he and his German wife, Martina, moved to Canada in 1996 and they have two kids, aged 10 and 7.

Brown may be quiet, but he's well known in the sport. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Brown came fourth by just seven seconds. Four years later in Athens, he was 15 seconds off a medal.

Brown, who is self-coached, has a personal best time of 2:09.31, which he ran in 2005 at the London Marathon.

"Jon has an impressive international resume and brings a lot of experience to the start line," said Martin Goulet, Athletics Canada's chief high performance officer. "We are happy to welcome him to our fold and wish him the best in his attempt to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games national team."

With his transfer, Brown rockets to the top of the depth chart -- if we could call it that -- among Canadian elite marathoners. In fact, nobody here even comes close: Last year's top time by a Canadian was 2:17.24 by Vancouver-based Jerry Ziak at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Toronto's Matt McInnes ran a 2:17.39 in Houston, Tex., a year ago this month.

Not that those guys should begrudge Brown's arrival -- there are up to three Olympic berths per country available in the marathon for runners who attain the time standard.

Brown officially became a Canadian citizen on June 2, 2005. Athletics Canada announced this week that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had accepted Brown's transfer of eligibility.

The IAAF received Brown's request of transfer of allegiance late last year, and as per IAAF rules, officials confirmed with UK Athletics that they accepted to release him.

"After the last Olympics, I kind of decided that if I was going to do another one, it'd be for Canada and not the U.K.," Brown said.

"This is where I live now, so it's kind of awkward for me to kind of live here and run for the U.K. when I don't really have anything to do with them anymore. It's just kind of a natural progression for me, really.

"I was in the process of getting citizenship and switching and eventually they just cut me off, which was fine because that's what I intended to happen anyway."

Brown is cut off from British support and he isn't yet eligible for funding here -- but not to worry. With a contract with shoe manufacturer Mizuno, along with prize and appearance money, Brown admits: "I've always kind of looked after myself. I do what I need to do, commercial events and I balance that with Olympics and championships."

The most recent Canadian to compete in an Olympic marathon was Bruce Deacon, who finished 44th in 2000 with a time of 2:21:38.

The Canadian record of 2:10.08, set by Jerome Drayton, has stood since 1975.

With Brown now a Canadian citizen, this could be the year that record is broken.

BOOST FROM THE BAY

Hudson's Bay Company yesterday announced a $2.9-million donation to Canadian Olympic hopefuls, awarding $5,000 grants to 200 top athletes, along with money for national training centres and sport organizations.

All the athletes have to do in return is to appear at their local Bay store in May or June and take part in the annual HBC Run for Canada on July 1. In addition, the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario is directing some of its HBC money to 10 developing athletes on the cusp of promising careers.

Awards of $3,000 went to: Zsofia Balazs (swimming) Tabia Charles (athletics), Megan Dolan-Schweitzer (wrestling), Mark Hinnen (cycling), Dominique Pegg (gymnastics), Chris Pellini (canoe), Joey Russel (figure skating) Corey Smith (basketball-Para), Mo Zhang (table tennis), Mike Beres (badminton).


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