Ryan Cochrane of Victoria broke the Canadian record in the men’s 400 freestyle on Tuesday and was among the first eight swimmers to earn a berth on this summer’s Olympic team at the 2008 CN Swimming Trials.
Cochrane took off like a rocket off last turn to win the race in 3:47.92 and smash the previous national mark of 3:49.08 set by Andrew Hurd of Toronto in 2006.
“I’m ecstatic, it’s what I wanted to do on my first night,” said Cochrane, 19, who now holds the Canadian record in all three distance freestyle events – the 400, 800 and 1,500 metres. “It takes off a lot of pressure for the rest of the week. I’m hoping I can go even a couple of seconds faster at the Games.”
Mathieu Bois of Montreal upset a strong field to win a thrilling men’s 100 breaststroke. Bois, competing at his home pool, clocked 1:01.53 to edge a surging Mike Brown of Perth, Ont., second in 1:01.56. Brown also earns a ticket to Beijing beating the 1:01.57 standard.
“After my first couple of strokes I knew I was going to win,” said Bois, 19, the Pan Am Games bronze medallist. “Everything was going well. My suit felt great, my arms were strong and my kicks were powerful. I just told myself I had stay with it until the end.”
Brown was fifth at the turn and produced his traditional b finish.
“I knew these guys would be going out fast,” said Brown, a world championship medalist in 2005. “I can’t do that. I need to be nice and controlled and come home as b as I can. It was the fastest I’ve been in a couple of years so I’m happy with that.”
Canada qualified two racers for Beijing in both the men’s and women’s 400 individual medley.
In the men’s 400 IM, Keith Beavers of Orangeville, Ont., posted the win in 4:16.98 and Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C., clocked 4:17.81 to qualify for his third straight Olympics.
“Fantastic,” said Beavers, a member of the 2004 team. “I think if I can drop another second and a half I can be right there for the final (at the Olympics). I’m really pleased with that. For me in this event the next step is to crack the top-eight in the world.”
Johns was determined to get the Olympic spot on the first day.
“I wanted to get my spot early so I just have to worry about swimming fast for the rest of the week,” said Johns, who continues an amazing comeback from a serious shoulder injury. “My biggest expectation in Beijing is to put together my greatest swim there. This is my third trip around. In 2000, I was a little bit young and the second time I was injured.”
In the women’s 400 IM, Alexa Komarnycky of Toronto took the win in 4:42.82 edging Tanya Hunks of Vancouver second in 4:43.12. Both are headed to their first Olympics.
“I’ve been training for this my whole life,” said Komarnycky, 18, a member of Canada’s 2006 Pan Pacific team. “It’s all I wanted, it’s all that I’ve trained for and it went exactly as planned. I was feeling so nervous today I couldn’t even nap this afternoon.”
Hunks has been one of Canada’s top open water swimmers for several years but decided to focus on the pool events this season.
“These Games are going to be it for, I wasn’t going to put in another four years,” said Hunks, 27. “It’s awesome for me. This is a dream since I was a little girl I remember watching it and saying I want to be a member of this Olympic team and represent Canada.”
Audrey Lacroix of Pont-Rouge, Que., also grabbed her first career Olympic spot winning the women’s 100 butterfly in 59.47. Canadian record holder MacKenzie Downing of Whitehorse was second in 59.91 and missed the Olympic cut.
“It was kind of expected,” said Lacroix, whose main event is the 200 fly. “I went out pretty well but the last 50 metres were a bit of challenge for me. I managed pretty well and the time was one of my good ones in this event.”
The competition is also the selection meet for the Paralympic Games for athletes with a disability in September. Visually impaired swimmer Valérie Grand’Maison of Montreal smashed her world record in the women’s 400 freestyle in the S13 category. She clocked 4:32.51 bettering the 4:36.51 she swam at last year’s Para Pan American Games.
“I’m so surprised and so happy,” said Grand’Maison, Canada’s top swimmer at the 2006 worlds with five gold medals. “I was aiming for my best time but four seconds was beyond expectations. I really focused on the strategy and stuck to my race plan. I can’t believe it.”
In other Paralympic races, Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver took the men’s 400 freestyle while Benoit Huot of Longueuil, Que., and Brittany Gray of Barrie, Ont., were the victors in the men’s and women’s 100 breaststroke.
Competition continues Wednesday at the Olympic Park Pool.