Canadian teenager qualifies for open water world championships

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October 22, 2007

Canadian teenager qualifies for open water world championships

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FORT MYERS , Florida – Seventeen-year-old Zsofi Balazs of Toronto won the women’s 10-kilometre race on Sunday at the Canadian team trials for the world open water swimming championships set for Seville , Spain next year.

The Hungarian-born Balazs clocked two hours and 08 minutes and 29 seconds for the victory with Karley Stutzel of Victoria second in 2:08:31 and Tanya Hunks of New Westminster, B.C., third in 2:08.45. The top-two earned a berth for the worlds.

‘’I’m very proud but I didn’t expect to win,’’ said Balazs, also a promising swimmer in the pool events. ‘’I didn’t feel as good as I wanted going in and the first couple of laps all the girls stayed together. Karley, Tanya and I broke away and in that last stretch I just told myself it was now or never. I knew they had more experience so I relied a lot on my speed.’’

Stutzel, who battled an illness earlier this year, was ecstatic to make the world team cut. She passed Hunks in the final 100 metres.

‘’I was worried in that last little bit,’’ said Stutzel. ‘’Zsofi and Tanya are fast swimmers in the pool and I didn’t have their sprinting speed. But I was able to get a really good line to the finish and it worked out great for me. I’m over the top happy about my race.’’

Patricia Perreault of Quebec City was fourth in 2:08:48 , Tara Ivanitz of Victoria fifth in 2:09.60 and Caitlin Nolan of Toronto sixth in 2:11.17.

In the men’s 10 kilometre, Philippe Dubreuil of Sherbrooke , Que., and Jarrod Ballem of Calgary grabbed the two world spots finishing in 1:56:28 and 1:59:36 respectively. Simon Tobin of Ste-Foy, Que., was third in 2: 04:51 .

‘’My race went better than expected,’’ said Dubreuil, 25, sixth at the Pan Pacific Championships last year. ‘’My strategy was to go easy on the first lap (of four) and then pick it up from there and build my lead. I was a bit surprised to win by such a large margin. Physically I felt great out there.’’

With Dubreuil building his lead, Ballem focused on keeping second spot.

‘’It was definitely a strategic race,’’ said Ballem, 28, who has competed at most major open water races since 2003. ‘’Phil went hard pretty early and I made a decision to let him go a bit. At five kilometres, I was still close to him but I saw that I had built a pretty good lap over third place. So I knew the only way the other guys were going to catch me is if I had a problem in the race. So I played it pretty safe. But I think it would have been tough for me either way to beat Phil today.’’

The open world championships are scheduled for May 2008 and will be an Olympic qualifier for the Canadians.

Final results:

Men:

  1. Philippe Dubreuil – 1:56:28
  2. Jarrod Ballem – 1:59:36
  3. Simon Tobin – 2:04:51
  4. David Creel ¨C DNF

Women:

  1. Zsofia Balasz ¨C 2:08:29
  2. Karley Stutzel ¨C 2:08:31
  3. Tanya Hunks ¨C 2:08:45
  4. Patricia Perrault ¨C 2:08:48
  5. Tara Ivanitz ¨C 2:09:60
  6. Caithlind Nolan ¨C 2:11:17

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