Area swimmers give Canada swimming gold at Pan Pacific meet

VICTORIA – Burlington’s Colin Russell and Cambridge-born Andrew Hurd help Canada to a silver medal in the 4×200 freestyle relay Friday at the Pan Pacific swimming championships.

With Vancouver’s Brent Hayden and Brian Johns completing the quartet, Canada was second to the U.S. foursome which was led by six-time Olympian Michael Phelps. The U.S. was clocked in 7:05.28 with Canada next in 7:12.29.

For Hayden it was a double medal day. He had the second fastest time in the world and wiped out his national record in taking the gold medal in the 100 metre freestyle event. Hayden touched in 48.59 to edged top-seed Jason Lezak of the U.S. who ad a time of 48.76. Aussie Eamon Sullivan won the bronze is 49.09.

Hayden was fifth at the 50-metre turn about 0.2 seconds behind Lezak.

“I didn’t know where everyone else was in the pool (at the turn), I just had my eye on Lezak,” said Hayden, whose previous best in the 100 freestyle was 48.92. “My priority was to stay close to him in the first 50 because he does have a very fast start. If I could do that and keep fighting I knew we’d be battling it out for the gold at the end.”

“I’m very excited about what happened in both the 100 free and relay tonight. But I’m keeping calm because I have more racing ahead this weekend. This win is really close to being the highlight of my career so far. However those two relay silver at the world championships in Montreal last year are still really high up there for me.”

In the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay, the U.S., led by six-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps took the gold in a championship record 7:05.28. The Canadians, world silver medallists last year, followed in 7:12.39 with Brian Johns of Vancouver, Andrew Hurd of Toronto, Hayden and Colin Russell of Burlington, Ont. Australia was third almost five seconds behind Canada.

“As soon as I saw Brian’s split on the lead-off I knew we were going to have a great relay,” said Russell, who also clocked a personal best split on the anchor leg. “The lead we had over the Australians going into my split was substantial. I raced it smart by not killing myself in the first 100 and making sure I had enough in the tank on the last length. We’re happy with the medal and we’re going to get better as we race it more.”

Johns, on the comeback after a serious shoulder injury following the 2004 Olympics, went head-to-head with Phelps to start the race.

“That was my first best time in three years so I’m happy with it,” said Johns. “I corrected the mistakes I made last night in the 200 freestyle final. A lead-off position is a good place for me to swim my best and follow my plan. I was able to get the most out of my swim tonight.”

In the women’s 100 freestyle, Erica Morningstar of Calgary broke her Canadian record clocking 55.36 for fifth place. Her previous best was 55.40 se the Commonwealth Games in March. Victoria Poon of Montreal was sixth in 56.02. Nathalie Coughlin of the U.S., won the race in 53.87.

In the men’s 100 breaststroke, world record holder Brendan Hansen of the U.S., was the winner lowering his championship record to 59.90. Mike Brown of Calgary was fifth in 1:01.58.

Also Jillian Tyler of Calgary and Lisa Blackburn of Waterloo were seventh and eighth respectively in the women’s 100 breaststroke final.

Canada was disqualified in the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay final.

After two days of competition, Canada has four medals (two gold, a silver and a bronze). On Thursday, Hurd and Ryan Cochrane of Victoria were first and third in the men’s 800 freestyle.

The meet concludes on Monday.