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Brent Hayden Earns Spot In 50-metre freestyle semifinals

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BRENT HAYDEN FREESTYLE
Brent Hayden has earned himself a spot in the 50m freestyle semifinal. (Getty Images) | Getty Images

LONDON - Celebrating an Olympic medal all night instead of swimming another race was not an option for Brent Hayden.

Hours after winning his bronze in the 100 freestyle, Hayden was back on the start blocks in the 50-metre freestyle Thursday.

He didn't make it to the final, but he still felt it was worth doing. Hayden's third Olympic Games are likely his last, so he wants to race.

"I'm in an event in the Olympics," Hayden said. "You've got take that opportunity. For me, it's never going to come around again.

"I knew I was an outside shot, but I knew if I did nail my race, I knew that I would have actually had a shot to be in the final and maybe even go for a podium."

The 28-year-old from Mission, B.C., qualified out of the morning heats for the evening semifinal, in which he finished tied for 14th. He'll race again Friday with the Canadian men in the 4 x 100 medley relay.

Toronto's Martha McCabe was fifth in the women's 200 breaststroke final Thursday. Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., will swim for a medal in Friday's 200 backstroke after clinching the eighth and final berth in the semifinals.

Hayden's post-medal activities Wednesday night were decidedly low-key. Since he was about to race again so soon, Hayden opted out of the news conference held for all medallists.

Hayden grabbed a bite to eat in the athletes' village cafeteria, answered a few congratulatory messages on Facebook and his e-mail and spoke on the phone to his fiancee Nadina Zarifeh.

"I didn't get a chance to see her at the pool," Hayden said of his night. "Took a sleeping pill and tried to knock myself out around 12:30."

Hayden didn't race the 50 metres at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Back spasms forced him out of the event at trials, which was another reason he wanted to have a go at it in London.

He was so excited to race the semifinal, his first stroke off the dive was deep in an effort to get back to the surface quickly.

"It's such a technical race," Hayden explained. "I kind of missed my breakout a little bit and kind of got stuck behind everybody early and tried to play catchup. I pulled the trigger a little too early with my arms.

"I had fun out there. I'm in the best place in the world to be."

Russell made her first Olympic final by finishing third in her heat and eighth overall in the semifinal. The 19-year-old had world-record holder Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe in the lane next to her and American star Missy Franklin two lanes over.

"I went out the first 50 trying to feel good and go out with the field," Russell said. "Once the first 50 was done, I had to swim my own race and that's what I was told to do. It felt good."

Athletes begin letting go of the task that has consumed them for weeks and months when their Olympic event is over. McCabe was a bronze medallist in the 200 breaststroke at last year's world championship. The 22-year-old wrestled with her emotions as she tried to come to grips with her performance.

"I've never dreamed about something so much or thought about something so much," McCabe said. "Coming into tonight, I thought I had nothing to lose. I knew it was going to be fast.

"That's the best time in a while, so I have to be happy with that. It's not a podium finish like I was dreaming. I'm upset now just because I was dreaming about the medal and it's all about the race. I put my heart into this so it means a lot."

McCabe was just over three and a half seconds back of gold medallist Rebecca Soni of the U.S., who broke her own world record.

Distance freestyler Ryan Cochrane of Victoria is the Canadian swim team's next medal hope. He races the 1,500 freestyle heats Friday with an eye on Saturday's final.

In Thursday morning heats, Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C., finished 18th in the 200 backstroke, two spots out of qualifying for the semifinals.

Toronto's Alexa Komarnycky and Vancouver's Savannah King each failed to advance to the women's 800 freestyle final. Komarnycky was 11th overall, followed by King in 15th with eight spots up for grabs.

Joe Bartoch of London, Ont., was sixth in his heat to miss out on a spot in the men's 100 butterfly semifinals.

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