Veterans Triumph at Canadian Nationals

EDMONTON, Canada, March 19. A TRIO of Sydney Olympic veterans, including 400 IM bronze medalist Curtis Myden, head a team of 16 Canadians who will comprise the Maple Leaf nation's swimming team at this summer's World Championships in Fukuoka in late July.

The team was selected at last week's Canadian Winter Nationals-World Championship Trials meet here in the same pool (although now much renovated) that served as site for the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 1991 Pan-Pac Championships.

The two most prominent Sydney Olympians to make the plane to Japan aside from Myden include Marianne Limpert in the 200 IM, a race where she was fourth last year but won the silver at Atlanta; and breaststroker Morgan Knabe, who was sixth in the 100 at Sydney with his national- record 1:01.58.

Myden is Canada's most successful Olympian of the last decade, having won bronzes in both IMs at Atlanta and the 400 bronze last year. He also holds both national records in those events (2:00.38 for the 200 that won the gold at the 1998 Goodwill Games in East Meadow), and 4:15.33 at Sydney. That latter time is also the Commonwealth Record.

In fact, the 27-year-old University of Calgary star is Canada's ONLY male Olympic medalist from either Atlanta or Sydney, and one of only two male medalists in the past decade. The other is now-retired backstroker Mark Tewksbury, who upset American Jeff Rouse — then the world record-holder — in the 100 at Barcelona for the gold.

Limpert, too, is a veteran of three Olympiads. At 29, she went a pr and Commonwealth-Canadian record 2:13.44 for the 200 IM at Sydney a mere six months ago and followed that up with an easy 2:14.58 win at the Trials last week.

Limpert also won the 100 free but her time of 56.62 (56.55 in the semis) failed to make the qualifying standard.

Knabe, the "youngster" of the bunch at 21, won all three breaststrokes at the Trials, setting a Commonwealth-national 50 standard of 28.47. The world record is 27.61 by Ukraine's Alexander Dzhaburiya and the 25th-fastest all-time performer is 28.43 split by Auburn's Pat Calhoun from last year's Olympic Trials. So to be competitive Knabe's going to have to drop considerably.

His 100 win was a 1:02.41 and his 200 was a 2:16.12.

Myden won the 200 IM in an "easy" 2:02.22. Brian Johns also made the qualifying standard with a pr 2:02.50 (second). Myden opted not to swim the 400 IM and the title went to Johns in a pr 4:20.47. Johns is a promising 18-year-old who hopes to shortly assume Myden's mantle. Chuck Sayao, who went a 4:19+ at the Sydney International Youth Championships in January, couldn't duplicate that time here, touching in 4:22.13 — a provisional qualifying mark.

The other top Canadian men's time was done by former Unversity of Las Vegas-Nevada star Mike Mintenko, who won the 50 and 100 flys His 50 clocking — 24.23 — is a national record. Australia's Geoff Huegill holds the world and Commonwealth records (23.60) from the New South Wales Invitational at the Sydney Olympic Pool from last March.

Mintenko's 100 fly winner was 53.52 but he went a world-leading 53.12 in the semis. His pr is 52.58 (Canadian Record) that earned him fifth at Sydney.

Distance specialist Andrew Hurd won the 800 in a pr 8:00.72, just missing the Canadian Record of 8:00.22 from a decade earlier. He also went a 3:52.75 in the 400 to tie Canadian 200 free record-holder Rick Say for the title, with both men making the 3:52.97 qualifying standard. Hurd's 15:23.71 won the mile but was slower than the automatic standard of 15:18.20, and a far cry from his pr of 15:12.70 from last year's Olympic Trials.

At the meet's conclusion Canadian head coach Dave Johnson said it was time for his country's swimmers to "step up their ambitions" in terms of merely aiming for personal bests or Canadian records.

"A Canadian record is fine as long as it's a world record," Johnson told the media. "We haven't had a long course record since 1984 (Victor Davis' 2:13.34 at the Los Angeles Olympics). We need to develop superstars, someone who can go and win at the world level on a consistent basis.

"The possibilities and the potential exist but they're not there yet. They (Canadian swimmers) need to work harder if they want to get there," he concluded.

The last Canadian to set a world record was breast-stroker Victor Davis, who won the gold in a wr 2:13.34 at the Los Angeles Olympics 17 years ago. Davis was killed in a tragic traffic accident prior to the Seoul Olympics four years later.

A source close to the Canadian national program said that after last year's dismal showing at Sydney (Myden's IM bronze was Canada's sole medal) a great hue and cry has arisen about what ails swimming in Canada.

"They pour millions into the program but we get worse every Olympics," the source continued. "I think Myden may have been hurt a bit when [his long-time coach Derek Snelling] went to England [to serve as national head coach] but we're just not mentally tough enough. We're content to play second-fiddle to the Aussies and the Brits and there's just no spark, no fire among our top kids."

–Bill Bell

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