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Friday, July 19, 2013

Swimming Canada, Swimming For Gold

With the Italian team stacked, the American team confident, the German team strong, and the Russian team coming back, it is hard to imagine another team breaking into the highest echelon of international open water swimming. But Canada has that potential.

Often overlooked, Canada is primed for breakout performances in the open water events beginning tomorrow at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

The colors of the traditional open water powers and flags from Great Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, and Brazil often fly at the world championships. But Richard Weinberger and Zsofia Balazs are aiming to change that equation. Not only during the individual 5 km, 10 km, and 25 km races, but also in the 5 km Team Pursuit where with Eric Hedlin, Weinberger and Balazs have an excellent shot at upsetting many of the traditional powerhouses.

Philippe Guertin and Hedlin will kick-off the Canadian campaign at tomorrow's 5 km race. Like all his competitors, Hedlin was totally enthused by his Spanish surroundings. "The city looks beautiful and I’m really excited to start racing. My goal is to try to take everything I have learned from Cancun [World Cup race in April] to swim a smart race."

"I think this is a good introduction for some of the athletes to get into the open water competition before we get to the 10 km event, which is obviously the Olympic event on the program," said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. And Canada already has a headliner as one of the pre-race medal favorites in the 10 km and 25 km men's races.

"I am feeling great. Seeing all the competitors roll in gave me a boost of energy, the kind that I was looking for and the type I need to race well," Olympic 10K marathon swim bronze medalist Weinberger said. "My goals are simple: to win. In my previous races I would shoot for top-10, top-five, top-three, but now all I want is the gold."

Weinberger's female teammates have been traveling the world to get primed for their own events. Nadine Williams and Zsofia Balazs will race in the women’s 10 km. "This is the first world-level race for all of us after a big last year, and I think it is important to start the new quadrennial strong," said Balazs who finished 18th in the 2012 London Olympics 10K. "I think we are all ready to swim fast and put open water in the spotlight a little bit. It's time for open water to shine. This is Planet Water after all,” Balazs added, referencing the slogan for Barcelona 2013.

Atkinson likes the team's chances. "We have the experience of Richard, who is obviously an Olympic medalist, a great competitor and a very tough racer, and the new members of the open water team Eric and Philippe swimming in their first world championships. They’re going to be in the hunt for a really good finish in this event. On the women’s side, Nadine and Zsofi both have got good experience and they’ll be looking to improve their positions in those events."

Look for the Canadian flag to fly at the end of a few races in Barcelona this coming week.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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