CN Swimming Trials: Olympic and Paralympic spots on the line

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World championship finalist Erica Morningstar of Calgary is ready to swim at top of her game at this week’s CN Swimming Trials which is a selection meet for the Games in Beijing

The competition runs this Tuesday to Sunday at the Olympic Park Pool in Montreal. Morningstar currently holds the Canadian record in the 100 freestyle, set in a fifth place finish at the world championships last year.

She’ll also race the 50 and 200 freestyles as well as the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.

The trials are the first step to what she hopes will culminate with a great performance at the Olympic Games.

‘’I can’t wait for the trials to start,’’ said Morningstar, 19, at meet and greet with the media on Monday. ‘’I’m not feeling nervous. I know I have to go out there and be very fast. Nothing is guaranteed. I’ve had good weeks of training leading into the trials and I’m confident.’’

Along with Morningstar, some of the recently successful swimmers heading into trials include freestyler Victoria Poon of Montreal, MacKenzie Downing of Whitehorse and Audrey Lacroix of Montreal in the butterfly, Brittany Reimer of Surrey, B.C., in the distance freestyles, Elizabeth Wycliffe of Kingston, Ont., in the backstroke, Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont., in the individual medleys and Annamay Pierse of Edmonton in the breaststroke.

On the men’s side, all eyes will be on 100 freestyle world champion Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., while others surging into trials include freestyler Andrew Hurd of Toronto, distance freestyler Ryan Cochrane of Victoria, backstrokers Callum Ng of Calgary and Matt Hawes of Stittsville, Ont., breaststroker Mike Brown of Perth, Ont., and individual medley specialist Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C.

‘’We want to keep breaking Canadian records this week,’’ said Pierre Lafontaine, Swimming Canada’s head coach.

Canada can qualify two swimmers per event provided they meet a pre-determined standard.

On the Paralympic side there are 21 spots up for grabs, 14 for the women and seven for the men. A total of 59 swimmers with a disability will be vying for those spots. They include established stars such as Benoit Huot of Longueuil, Que., Brian Hill of Duncan, B.C., and Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver for the men and Valérie Grand’Maison of Montreal, Stephanie Dixon of Victoria and Darda Geiger of London, Ont.

‘’Our swimmers know that if they want to swim fast in Beijing, they are going to have to swim fast here,’’ said Craig McCord of Vancouver, Canada’s Paralympic swim team head coach.

This is the first time the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic trials will be integrated. ‘’It’s the right thing to do,’’ said Lafontaine. ‘’We’re a big family and we all train together. It’s a normal step for us to take.’’

For fifteen-year-old Austin Rockett of Mississauga, Ont., he has his set sights on the 2012 London Games. This week he hopes to gain valuable experience which will lead him to that path. “My main goal is to make the finals in the 1500 free,” Rockett told the Mississauga News. “I like going to challenging meets. I find I perform better. I’m excited. I feel I can do pretty well.”

Preliminaries are at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday while on the weekend prelims are at 9 a.m. and finals at 4 p.m. to accommodate live television coverage on CBC and Radio-Canada. Live streaming of the preliminaries and finals all week will also be available.

Several media features including live results and bios are available at www.swimming.ca.

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