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Canada's Marathoners Wykes, Coolsaet And Gillis Cap Olympic Competition

08/11/2012 10:52 EDT | Updated 10/11/2012 05:12 EDT
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LONDON - A trio of Canadians will be chasing history when they line up for the Olympic men's marathon Sunday.

Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes and Eric Gillis will take aim once again at Jerome Drayton's Canadian record — the oldest national track and field record on the books.

While all three will be racing for position more than time, they know that on a good day that record is in danger.

Drayton's mark of two hours 10 minutes nine seconds has managed to elude Canada's best marathoners for 37 years.

But Dave Scott-Thomas, coach of Coolsaet and Gillis, has said under the right conditions, that mark could finally fall in London.

"I don't know what the balance is between sounding egotistical and cocky and just sounding confident, but we want to be on the confident end of things," the coach said.

"I never wake up thinking, oh we'll be lucky if this happens. I wake up thinking these guys have given me the trust to design a program to get them to optimal performance. And every day I come here, I think that optimal performance is significantly faster than 2:10."

Wykes, a 29-year-old from Kingston, Ont., has come closest, running 2:10.47 in April. The 33-year-old Reid, a Hamilton., Ont., native ran 2:10.55 in horrible conditions last fall, while Gillis, a 32-year-old from Antigonish, N.S., has a best time of 2:11.28.

"If the temperature is right and the conditions are right, these guys are ready," said Martin Goulet, Athletics Canada's high-performance director. "We have three very solid guys who are very well coached, which is for any event the key factor.

"We are expecting them to negotiate that race very well and come up with great performances."

Goulet said a top-24 finish among the field of 109 runners would be a good result for the Canadians. He believes one might sneak into the top 12.

Canada hasn't had an entry in the marathon since Bruce Deacon at the 2000 Sydney Games. The last time Canada had three runners was at the 1996 Atlanta Games where Peter Fonseca was the top Canadian in 21st ahead of Carey Nelson and Deacon.

The 42.195-kilometre London Olympic course isn't designed for sizzling fast times. Most of it travels through the narrow, windy roads of the old City of London, and a portion of the surface is cobblestone. It was designed to pass by many of London's landmarks such as The Mall, Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London.

Weather forecasts are predicting 21 C and partly sunny skies for the marathon, which begins at 11 a.m. local time.

There are a couple of other events on the final day of the Olympics.

Melanie McCann of Mount Carmel, Ont., and Donna Vakalis of Toronto compete in the modern pentathlon, which includes four events spread over the day — fencing, swimming, horseback riding and a combined event.

In the combined event, athletes must shoot a target five times and then run 1,000 metres (they do that three times). They start the combined event based on points accumulated in the previous three disciplines, with the highest point scorer leading. The first across the line is the winner.

Geoff Kabush and Max Plaxton of Victoria race in the men's mountain bike at the 500-acre Hadleigh Farm.

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