Synchro hopes on line

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

The Canadian synchronized swimming team is in Beijing, competing in the Olympic qualification tournament. By Sunday, the squad will know whether it will return in August for the Summer Games -- or if this will be its last trip to China.

For a promising Etobicoke swimmer who wasn't chosen to go to Beijing this time, alternate Laura McClemont is following the results on the Internet and supporting her teammates from afar, while training four hours a day at the national centre in Montreal. She will have one last chance, in May, to crack the lineup, as will Waterloo's Megan Poss, the team's other alternate.

"I'm sending the team my positive vibes from here and I'm wishing them well," said McClemont, 22, a graduate of Etobicoke's Silverthorn Collegiate. "Obviously, I'm disappointed I can't be in Asia to support the team in person, but I'm trying to keep up my end of things here and hold the fort."

The Canadian team sits in third position after an impressive performance on Thursday in the technical event. Canada must finish in the top three after the team free routine final tomorrow in order to score an Olympic berth. (The other five team berths already have been awarded to host China, along with continental qualifiers U.S., Russia, Egypt and Australia.)

"The team really stepped up to the plate and showed the international community that Canada belongs among the top teams in the world," coach Denise Sauve said. "We feel very confident about our free routine and there is still room to improve on our marks."

Athletes from 32 nations are taking part in the qualifier, which runs until Sunday at Beijing's National Aquatic Centre, known as the Water Cube.

"It's a breathtaking facility with lots of seating area for spectators and many luxurious additions such as heated flooring on the pool deck and an exceptional view of the building's innovative structure while performing in the water," Burlington's Isabelle Rampling said in an e-mail from Beijing. "There are so many people dedicated to the success of this event, and it shows not only in the great organization of the competitions themselves, but also in all of the preparation and planning since Day 1."

As for McClemont, she has had an amazing run to even make it this far. She was considered a dark horse to be invited to train with the A team until she delivered a stellar trials performance last August. A part-time McGill University student, she relocated to Montreal in 2004 and has learned enough "synchro French" to understand coaching feedback and interact with athletes of the mostly bilingual A team.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on performing my best in the next trial and see what happens," said McClemont, a former national junior and B team member.

McClemont has been e-mailing her teammates in China and also sent along an inspirational card. Inside, she wrote a motivating note telling them she knows they can do it, and how proud she is of them and the progress they've made.

McClemont has dreamed of going to the Olympics since she was 10. Whether she makes it to Beijing -- only nine of the 12 swimmers on the roster can go -- she'll always know she had a key part in the quest.

PARADE OUTFITTER

Look out HBC, the Canadians might not be the best-dressed team at the Olympics any more. The U.S. Olympic Committee has designated Polo Ralph Lauren as an official outfitter of its 2008 Olympic and Paralympic teams, supplying opening and closing ceremony parade outfits.


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