SPORTS

Canada's MacLean seventh in Olympic pool, teammates just short of finals

07/29/2012 06:32 EDT | Updated 09/28/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Another day, another drama for Canada's swim team at the Olympic Games.

Tera Van Beilen of Oakville, Ont., made her Olympic debut in 100-metre breaststroke Sunday, and had to compete in one more race than she'd expected.

The 19-year-old had a swim-off against Alia Atkinson of Jamaica late in the evening, when the Aquatic Centre stands had largely emptied, to determine who would claim the eighth spot in Monday's final.

The two women had identical times and finished tied for eighth in the semifinal, requiring a rare head-to-head almost two hours later to solve the deadlock. Atkinson prevailed, dropping Van Beilen to ninth and one spot out of the final in her third race of the day.

"It was mentally hard coming off a race and knowing you had to do it again," Van Beilen said. "I tried to get my head in the right place. It's was a hard turnaround. I feel blessed for the opportunity to have swum again. It wasn't how I would have liked it to turn out. I gave it everything I had."

It was the second strange turn of events for Canada in as many days. Ryan Cochrane thought he would race in the men's 400 freestyle final Saturday, but a disqualification of world and Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan in the heats was reversed.

That bumped the Victoria swimmer from the final eight and out of the running for a medal. Cochrane will get another chance in Saturday's 1,500-metre freestyle, which is a distance he won Olympic bronze in four years ago.

Canada emerged from the opening weekend of swim competition still looking for a medal. Their goal is three medals and swimmers in 13 to 15 finals.

Toronto's Brittany MacLean was the first to make a final Sunday. The 18-year-old was seventh in the women's 400-metre freestyle, which was a promising result for a teenager also swimming her first races.

"I knew I was in a really tough field and I knew it was going to be a bit of a battle the whole way through, so I tried to get on top of it," MacLean said. "Wasn't completely successful with staying with the pack as I wanted to. I wanted to fight to the finish no matter what place I was.

"I ended up out-touching one person. I'll take seventh place at the Olympics."

MacLean broke her own Canadian record in the morning heats with a time of four minutes, 5.06 seconds. She was just over a second slower in the final.

Sunday opened with potential as MacLean made the final and five swimmers qualified for semifinals at night. But the day ended flatly as none of those semifinalists passed through Monday's finals.

Along with Cochrane in the 1,500, Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., is a medal possibility in the men's 100-freestyle. Hayden was a silver medallist at last year's world championship and won gold in 2007. He'll swim heats Tuesday.

Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont., was considered a medal hopeful in the women's 100-metre backstroke, but she too finished ninth in Sunday's semifinal.

"I failed. It's heartbreaking. Sorry," the 25-year-old said as tears came. "You've got to believe you can win or else its impossible. It's the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. I did everything I could. Ninth is horrible. It's so close."

She'll race the 100 freestyle and a relay later in the Games, but Wilkinson mourned the lost opportunity in the backstroke.

"It might get worse before it gets better, once it kind of sinks in that it's over and I don't get to have the chance to be in the final and fight for that medal, but there's a great song that I'll go listen to and the chorus is 'Keep on dreaming, even if it breaks your heart' and that's what I'm going to do,'" Wilkinson said.

Calgary's Gillian Tyler was 14th in the women's 100 breaststroke and Charles Francis of Cowansville, Que., finished 15th in the men's 100-metre backstroke. Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., qualified along with Wilkinson in the women's backstroke and finished 16th in her Olympic debut.

In the morning heats, Vancouver's Blake Worsley just missed moving onto the 200 freestyle semifinal, finishing 17th in the preliminaries. Savannah King of Toronto finished 18th in the women's 400 freestyle. The Canadian men's 100-metre freestyle relay team was 10th and did not advance.

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