Beijing Brief: Some Great Moments on Day Five

The level of Olympic swimming competition has been extraordinary at the 2008 Games and as records of all types continue to shatter, several Canadian swimmers have found success.

Mike Brown, of Perth, Ont., swam a tremendous race in the 200m breaststroke semifinal. He separated himself from the others in his heat to finish first, and second overall behind Josuke Kitajima of Japan who holds the world record. Brown, whose semifinal swim of 2:08.84 was a new Canadian record, will seek a medal in Thursday’s final.

“It felt great from the get go,” Brown said. “I was powerful throughout my race and I was strong during my last 50 metres. To be ranked second in the finals is very exciting.”

Julia Wilkinson, who at age 21 is just coming into her own, helped illustrate the potentially bright future of Canadian swimming. In her second finals appearance in Beijing, Wilkinson finished seventh in 200m individual medley – another race whose winner (Stephanie Rice, Australia) set a world record.

Several swimmers advanced to semifinal races Thursday. Edmonton’s Annamay Pierse was second in her 200m breaststroke heat in a time of 2:25.01. Both Keith Beavers (London, Ont.) and Tobias Oriwol (Toronto) reached the Thursday semifinals for 200m backstroke. In 100m freestyle, Calgary’s Erica Morningstar swam fast enough to reach the semifinal. Teammate Wilkinson also swam this race, tying a German for 16th place, meaning she will have to defeat Petra Dallmann in a “swim-off” to reach the semifinal.

“My swim felt great and relaxed,” said Pierse. “I concentrated on my own race and I felt in control all the way through. I didn’t push my last 50 to much so I have lots more in the tank for tomorrow’s semifinal.”

Brent Hayden, of Mission, B.C., wasn’t able to continue his fine form in Beijing as the world champion failed to reach the 100m freestyle final. The two semifinals Wednesday featured a new world record, then another shortly thereafter. In the men’s 4x200m freestyle final, Hayden, Colin Russell, Brian Johns, and Andrew Hurd finished two notches off the podium in fifth spot despite shaving two seconds off the Canadian record.

Outside on the diamond, Canada secured two victories on day five. First the men’s baseball team defeated China 10-0. Chris Begg (Uxbridge, Ont.) struck out nine batters over six-plus innings and the team had 10 hits in total. A far more difficult contest is expected Thursday against Cuba.

“This was China’s first international game, and they had some players that had the jitters,” said manager Terry Puhl. “We had a lot of honour in this game, but we were here to win and we played well.”

Later in the day, the women’s softball team ran its record to 2-0 with a 9-2 win over the Netherlands.

In synchronized diving, Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que. and Arturo Miranda of Edmonton finished fifth in the final of 3m springboard. Throughout their six dives, the duo had a shot at a bronze but fell about six points shy of the podium. Despatie will get another shot on the 3m when he goes toe to toe with strong Chinese divers starting Aug. 18.

Three archers were in action Wednesday. Jason Lyon of Winnipeg impressively won his two matches 111-106 and 113-107 to advance to the quarter-finals. His teammate Crispin Duenas of North York, Ont. lost a shootout in the round of 16, narrowly missing the quarter-finals. John David Burnes of Toronto lost to American Brady Ellison in the round of 32 – though Lyon beat Ellison later.

“Everything came together today,” said Lyon. “I was really relaxed and focused and was feeling strong and positive. I’m thrilled to be advancing and plan to bring the same positive energy and focus to the next round.”

In cycling, Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C. achieved the best Canadian result ever in finishing seventh in the road time trial. “I competed at the best of my abilities in the sense that I conserved my energy for the first half and then I just left everything out there on the road for the last bit,” Tuft said. “So I’m happy with that. That’s what I came to do.” In the same race, Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal finished 16th out of 39 riders. On the women’s side, Alexandra Wrubleski of Regina finished 24th.

Elsewhere on day five of the 2008 Olympic Games:

Fencer Sherraine Schalm, No. 5 in the world in Épée, lost in the round of 16 to her Hungarian opponent. The contest was close start to finish and Schalm eventually lost 15-13. The three-time Olympian was understandably upset.

“This lost is not easy to accept,” Schalm said. “I have trained very hard and I was prepared. I feel very sorry as I know I let everyone down. I can’t believe that I lost – I don’t wish anyone the horrible feeling I have right now.”

Teammate Josh McGuire of Hamilton won his first match 11-10 to reach the round of 16 where he dropped his second match.

In canoe-kayak, Sarah Boudens of Pembroke, Ont. couldn’t manage to slip into the semifinals, finishing 19th in her second slalom race. She called the experience “very motivating” and already has set her sights on 2012.

In rowing action, the men’s coxless pair of Scott Frandsen and David Calder won their semifinal to advance to the medal rounds this weekend. So too did the women’s eight, who won their repechage race Wednesday. On Thursday, three lightweight boats compete in semifinals.

“In the last three days since the heat we’ve been making sure we were focused,” said Frandsen. “The fear and nerves can’t get to you. We are happy with the result and looking forward to an exciting final.” That final will pit them against Australia, gold medal favourite.

Montreal’s Audrey Lacroix finished 13th overall in the 200m butterfly semifinals. She will miss the finals. In 200m individual medley heats, Keith Beavers and Brian Johns swam to times of 1:59.19 and 2:00.66 respectively. The women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team finished in a time of 7:56.26.

The men’s table tennis team lost 3-0 in the first round.

In shooting, Toronto’s Avianna Chao finished 41st in the 25m sport pistol event and didn’t make the final.

The field hockey team lost its second game 3-1 to Pakistan. Bindi Kullar (North Delta, B.C.) scored for Canada.

Amid very trying conditions in Qingdao, China, Canada’s sailing team raced in six events. Chris Cook sits in 7th place overall after Wednesday in the Finn event. In laser radial, Lisa Ross finished 13th today to sit 18th overall after three races. In laser, Mike Leigh sits in 19th spot as several expected medal contenders in the event sit well back of the leaders. The 470 team of Stephane Locas and Oliver Bone sit in 28th spot overall. In 49er, Gordon Cook and Ben Remocker finished 10th in the final race and now sit 13th overall. In Yngling, the team of Jennifer Provan, Martha Henderson and Kathryn Abbott sit 12th overall and have their sights set on making the cut-off mark for the medal race.