Canadian Records Fall at the Water Cube

Canada’s swim program, rebuilt after the disaster at the Athens Games, began showing some progress Sunday at the Beijing Olympics.

Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C., was seventh in the 400-metre individual medley race with a time of four minutes 13.38 seconds, while the women’s 4×100-metre relay team of Julia Wilkinson, Erica Morningstar, Genevieve Saumur and Audrey Lacroix were eighth in a Canadian record time of 3:38.32.

Canadian swimmers made it to their third final in Sunday evening’s preliminaries. The relay team of Brent Hayden, Joel Greenshields, Rick Say and Colin Russell swam to a Canadian record of 3:13.68 to qualify seventh.

“We knew we had it in us,” said Hayden of Mission, B.C., after the men’s 4×100-metre relay team qualified for Monday’s final. “We’re on the right track right now.”

Hayden said the Canadians can go faster in the final.

“We’ve all got more in us,” he said. “We’re looking good. We’re just going to keep it going.”

In other swims Sunday night, Hayden and Russell, of Burlington, Ont., both advanced to the 200-metre freestyle semifinals. Hayden said he may scratch from the semifinals to concentrate on the relay.

Wilkinson broke her Canadian record to reach the semifinal of the 100-metre backstroke while Jillian Tyler of Calgary and Annamay Pierse of Edmonton earned spots in the 100-metre breaststroke semifinal.

In the 200 freestyle, Hayden’s time of 1:46.31 broke his own Canadian record and was the third fastest of the evening, .08 ahead of American swimming star Michael Phelps. Russell had the fifth fastest time of 1:46.58. Canadian swimmers may not be ready to challenge the likes of Phelps, but with three finals made and eight national records already broken, they’re well on their way to putting the mess of 2004 behind them, when Canada made just three finals and swimmers failed to match personal bests.

“I’m really pleased with the Canandian performances so far as many of us have gone lifetime best,” said Johns, who broke an eight-year-old Canadian record to reach the final. “And we will see more of us fighting to get a lane in the finals.”

Much work remains for the swimmers to hit the podium, although Canadians have shown they’re headed in the right direction.

“We were in the race the whole time,” said Wilkinson. “We showed we could race with the rest of the world. That’s really exciting for us.”

Canada was still looking for its first medal of the Games midway through Sunday’s action.

Several rowers kept their chase of the podium alive, as all of Canada’s lightweight crews advanced to the semifinals later this week at the rowing regatta.

Melanie Kok of St. Catharines, Ont., and Tracy Cameron of Shubenacadie, N.S., were second in their women’s double heat.

In the men’s double, Doug Vandor of Dewittville, Que., and Cameron Sylvester of Caledon, Ont., also finished second.

The men’s lightweight four of Mike Lewis and Iain Brambell of Victoria, Liam Parsons of Thunder Bay, Ont., and Jon Beare of Toronto were also second to move on.

The semis are set for Wednesday and Thursday.

The news wasn’t as good for Canada’s only boxer at the Summer Olympics.

Adam Trupish was soundly beaten 20-1 by Bakhyt Sarsekbayev of Kazakhstan in an opening-round, 69-kilogram bout.

The 29-year-old from Windsor, Ont., was knocked down in the first minute of the match. Trupish was in is his third straight Olympics, although he was a team alternate in 2000.

In tennis, Frederic Niemeyer of Deauville, Que., retired from his first-round singles match against Guillermo Canas of Argentina with an arm injury. Niemeyer won the opening set 6-3 and trailed the second set 4-2 when he chose to stop the match.

Niemeyer’s doubles match with Toronto’s Daniel Nestor was among those rained out Sunday.
In other Canadian action Sunday:

Anna Rice of North Vancouver, B.C., advanced to the Round of 16 in women’s badminton with a 21-10, 21-13 win over Switzerland’s Jeannine Cicognini. Rice faces third-seeded Lu Lan of China in the next round. “My cheering section from Canada is going to have to step it up tomorrow because I am playing a girl from China,” Rice said. “It is going to be loud in here but the pressure is totally on her and I’m going to use it to my advantage.”

Andrew Dabeka of Ottawa lost his first-round men’s match 21-11, 21-11 to South Korea’s Sunghwan Park.

In shooting, Giuseppe Di Salvatore of Surrey, B.C., was 26th in the men’s trap with 112 points while Avianna Chao of Toronto was 39th in the women’s 10-metre air pistol with 370 points.

The men’s water polo team opened the Olympic tournament with a 16-6 loss to Spain, bronze medallists at the 2007 world championships.

“Our team is young, and I think we were impressed and nervous,” said Nathaniel Miller of Pierrefonds, Que. “We did not play to our usual level. We’re disappointed, but we’ll do better in our next game.”

In 66-kg judo, Sasha Mehmedovic of Toronto won his opening match over Roberto Ibanez of Ecuador, then lost in the round of 16 to Benjamin Darbelet of France. In the repechage, he defeated Rachid Rguig of Morocco before being eliminated with a loss to Alim Gadanov of Russia.

“On the mat, it was pretty much four years gone right there,” said an emotional Mehmedonic. “The thing is, I don’t know if I can get another chance to go to the Olympics.”

Fencer Igor Tikhomirov of Richmond Hill, Ont., made it to the round of 16 in the men’s epee before getting eliminated by Fabrice Jeannet of France.

Canadians Selena O’Hanlon of Elgin, Ont., Mike Winter of Toronto, Calgarians Sandra Donnelly and Kyle Carter, and Samantha Taylor of Richmond, B.C., sit ninth in the team dressage after the second day of eventing. O’Hanlon was the top Canadian in the individual dressage at 20th.
In sailing, Christopher Cook of Toronto sat third after four races in the Finn class. In Yngling class, Jennifer Provan and Martha Henderson of Toronto and Katie Abbott, Sarnia, Ont., were 12th overall going into the fifth race. In 49er class, Gordon Cook of Toronto and Ben Remocker of Vancouver were 15th after their first two races

In women’s gymnastics, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was 19th overall in the qualifying round, while Nansy Damianova of Montreal was 38th. Neither gymnast advanced to the final.