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Canada wraps up open water slate as pool swimmers arrive

2015 FINA –

KAZAN, Russia – It was a busy day for Canada Tuesday at FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, as the team competed in its final open water event. Meanwhile, the 16 women and 8 men making up Canada’s pool team arrived in Kazan from their staging camp in Sabadell, Spain.

Brandon, Man., native Samantha Harding finished 27th in the women’s 10-km marathon, while Jade Dusablon of Quebec City was 34th.

Harding, swimming in just her third 10-km including Pan Am Games and the Canadian trials earlier this year, acquitted herself well in a strong 57-woman field. The start list included 5 of the 6 medallists from the 2012 Olympics and 2013 world championships battling for 10 spots in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. Harding was as high as seventh at the halfway point and still in the top 20 after three 2.5-km laps in the Kazanka River.

“I thought the first 75 per cent was a big improvement and that I can really work on the end because I didn’t have the stamina to stay with the lead pack at the end. But the first part was a lot better than the other 10-kms that I’ve done,” said Harding, 21.

After 30 to 40 swimmers had made up the lead pack for most of the race, three broke away to start the fourth lap. Eventual winner Aurelie Muller of France led to the finish, followed by silver medallist Sharon Van Rouwendaal and Italian Rachele Bruni, who finished fourth.

“They started to turn up their speed and I didn’t quite have enough to keep up with them,” Harding said. “But that’s something I can work on in the future, which I’m happy about.”

Another 14 swimmers were about 20 seconds behind in a chase group setting up a battle for the remaining seven Olympic spots. Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha, the 2013 silver medallist, charged down a fading Bruni for the bronze, with less than 30 seconds separating third place from 17th. Harding followed at the back of the next group of 10, finishing with a time of 1:59.47.1, while Dusablon came shortly thereafter in 2:00:35.0.

“I saw some great things, some real potential. I think we’ve found some people that we can work with. I think this is the start for these guys,” said Open Water Lead Coach Mark Perry. “We’ve found someone who really listens and can apply tactics to a race situation. There are some things we need to work on over the next 11 months before the second qualifier but I’m pretty confident that we can improve.”

Richard Weinberger of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Vancouver qualified for the men’s 10-km in Rio with an eighth-place finish Monday. Now the road to qualifying a Canadian woman will go through the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setubal, Portgual next June.

“We’re going to consider now based on the results here how we do our final selection,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “We’ll come back and publish that in due course, but our girls continue to improve, put themselves in good positions, and now it’s time to get things ready for next year.”

As the open water team prepares to depart, pool swimmers had their first day of training in Kazan Tuesday. The eight-day pool meet runs Sunday, Aug. 2 to Sunday, Aug. 9 at Kazan Arena. Of the 24 swimmers, 22 were part of the successful Pan Am Games in Toronto, where Canadian swimmers won 27 medals, including eight gold.

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