The Olympic team got richer by four after only the first event, the men's 200 freestyle. The event was won by first-time Olympian Colin Russell, whose time of 1:46.99 was just over a tenth of a second off the Canadian record and puts him in the top two in the world right now. The national record belongs to 2007 100-meter world champion Brent Hayden, who placed second in 1:47.61. Hayden said he considered scratching the race because of a back spasm he suffered a couple of weeks ago, but he said his back felt loose during the final.
"My heart and soul is in the 100," said Hayden after the race. "I do the 200 because I know I'm there to help my relay team, which is why I'm so excited for Colin. The closer he gets to my record, or if he beats it, the better medal chance for me." Hayden said he hopes to break his own 100-meter Canadian record this weekend--one last time before he dons Speedo's near-miraculous LZR Racer suit.
The top four men in the 200 free, including Andrew Hurd (1:48.57) and Adam Sioui (1:48.72), beat the relay qualifying time of 7:28.32 to qualify for the Games. And fifth-place swimmer Brian Johns, who made the team last night in the 400 IM, swam 1:49.24, a time fast enough to qualify as a relay alternate.
Hurd, who missed a spot in the 400 free last night, was relieved to make it on the relay. "This is my last chance to make the Olympic team," said the two-time Olympian after his race. "I don't want to just go; I want to win a medal."
In the women's 100 back, Julia Wilkinson broke the Canadian record she set this morning by posting a 1:01.41, beating the second-place finisher, Elizabeth Wycliffe, by more than a second. Wycliffe, who was seventh at the 50 and had to fight her way to second, missed the FINA-A standard, but she'll be a contender in the 200 backstroke on Sunday.
Wilkinson looked relaxed before the event as she bounced down the deck among the seven other finalists. Afterwards, she credited training and racing in the US (she trains at Texas A&M University), where she has raced world-record holder Kirsty Coventry. "Two weeks ago I was at a meet in Austin where I swam against girls who went sub one minute, and that's awesome," she said. (Wycliffe trains at the University of Texas at Austin with Coventry.)
Wilkinson, who broke Erin Gammel's 2005 national record in heats, doesn't consider herself a 100 backstroker: her international experience has been in the 200 back (at Worlds), the 200 IM (Worlds), and sprint freestyle. "I like to swim it all," she said after her race.
The men's 100 back provided the night's drama. Victoria's Matt Rose led the race from lane four (which at the 10-lane Montreal pool is the third-place position), but it looked like he got stuck on the lane-line in the last 25. Langley's Jake Tapp and Brampton's Rob Taylor (who trains in Montreal), who were next to each other in lanes six and seven, out-touched Rose for a tie for first place, in 55.53. Rose placed third in 55.66.
Because neither Tapp nor Taylor made the FINA-A standard, which would assure that both could go to Beijing, they need to do a swim-off sometime before Sunday night when the team is announced. Lafontaine said deciding exactly when is a bit tricky, as the swimmers are preparing for races Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Both Tapp and Taylor looked irritated after the race, and neither approached the media scrum to be interviewed.
The women's 100 breaststroke was another deep final. The top three women: Vancouver's Annamay Pierse, Calgary's Jillian Tyler, and Calgary's Erica Morningstar--swam under the FINA-A standard of 1:09.01. Pierse swam 1:08.32, half a second slower than her Canadian record. Tyler swam 1:08.54, and Morningstar 1:08.78. Morningstar doesn't get to go to Beijing in this event, but no matter: she's the Canadian record holder in the 100 freestyle and could dominate in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle as well as the 200 IM.
"The hardest part today was the nerves, and getting myself calm and collected," said Pierse, who broke all three breaststroke Canadian records in 2007.
In the final able-bodied race of the night, two teenagers took down some of their elders. Beaconsfield, Quebec's Stephanie Horner, 19, and Vancouver's Savannah King, 15, were one-two in the 400 freestyle, both posting times faster than the FINA-A cut. Horner, who was near the front of the pack from the first 25, swam 4:10.16. And King, the team's youngest qualifier so far, was near the bottom of the field until the 300. She swam 4:10.28, and she would have likely overtaken Horner given another few metres. Both said they took four to five seconds off their best times. King seemed shocked after the race; even her coach said he'd been thinking the 800 would be King's best chance to make it. Veteran Brittany Reimer, who owns the Canadian record in the event and swam for Canada in 2004, placed 5th.