Brian Johns, womens 4X100 freestyle relay smash Canadian records to qualify for Olympic finals

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Brian Johns of Vancouver and Canada’s women’s 4X100 freestyle relay qualified for finals smashing Canadian records in Saturday’s preliminaries as swimming competition got underway at the Olympic Games.

In the men’s 400 individual medley, American star Michael Phelps broke his Olympic record to qualify first for Sunday morning’s final clocking 4:07.82. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary qualified second in 4:09.26 and Luca Marin of Italy third in 4:10.22.

Johns was the seventh fastest in qualifying posting a 4:11.21 which smashed the previous national mark of 4:15.33 set by Curtis Myden of Calgary in a bronze medal performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He finished second in the third of fourth heats and was battling for third spot most of the race until delivering a powerful freestyle length on the final two lengths.

‘’As a veteran I wanted to show that our entire team is here to compete,’’ said Johns, competing at his third Olympics. ‘’We are going to swim with undying Canadian pride and honour. And that’s what I did today. I just threw it down and let the chips fall where they may.’’

Keith Beavers of Waterloo, Ont., also went under the previous national record finishing ninth overall in 4:12.75 and missed a berth in the final by one spot finishing one second behind eighth place qualifier Thiago Pereira of Brazil.

‘’I’m so pleased to knock off four seconds off my personal best time,’’ said Beavers. ‘’I was happy that it was Brian that beat me into the finals. Our performances set a really good tone for the rest of the Games.’’

In the women’s 4X100 freestyle relay, China qualified first in 3:36.78 followed by Germany in 3:37.52 and the U.S., third in 3:37.53.

Canada with Julia Wilkinson of North York, Ont., Erica Morningstar of Calgary, Genevieve Saumur and Audrey Lacroix, both of Montreal, took seventh spot in 3:38.82. The previous national mark was 3:41.07 set last year which also included Wilkinson, Morningstar and Saumur.

‘’We are super happy,’’ said Lacroix, who anchored the race. ‘’Being the new one on the team it was a great thrill for me to be part of the Canadian record. Julia and Erica positioned us well with great performances on the first two relays. We’ve got a lot of confidence going into the final.’’

Ryan Cochrane of Victoria also eclipsed his Canadian record in the men’s 400 freestyle clocking 3:44.85 which ranked him ninth in qualifying. He missed a berth in the final by one spot only 0.03 seconds off the time posted by eighth place finisher Yuriy Prilukov. Cochrane’s previous mark was 3:47.21 set earlier this summer.

“It’s my best time by three seconds, which is the time I wanted to go and my goal time,” Cochrane told Canwest News Service. “I’m ecstatic about that. It’s frustrating to come ninth, but it’s my first Olympics and I think I put together a good race, and it sets me up really well for the 1,500.”

Canadians not advancing after Saturday’s prelims were Lacroix 28th in the women’s 100 butterfly, Tanya Hunks of Vancouver and Alexa Komarnycky of Etobicoke, Ont., 20th and 29th respectively in the women’s 400 IM, and Mike Brown of Calgary and Mathieu Bois of Montreal 20th and 28th in the men’s 100 breaststroke.

Hunks clocked a personal best 4:40.63. ‘’I was planning to retire after the Games but that time has given me a lot of motivation to try and get Joanne Malar’s national record (4:38.46).’’

The men’s 400 IM finals and women’s 4X100 freestyle relay finals go at 10:03 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday evening in Canada.

Full results at: results.beijing2008.cn/WRM/ENG/Schedule/SW.shtml

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