Oakville swimmers help Canada to podium at junior Pan Pacific meet

GUAM – Zsofia Balazs of Toronto took fifth spot Monday (Jan. 12) in the women’s 10 kilometre open water race to cap an impressive performance for Canada’s national team at the Junior Pan Pacific swimming championships.

In the first four days in the pool, Canada collected 12 medals (one gold, three silver and eight bronze) after being absent from the podium at the last junior Pan Pacs in 2007. The competition was another big confidence booster for the team, many of whom competed at the world junior championships last year collecting eight medals and placing fourth overall in the team standings.

“You’re going to see many of these juniors be serious contenders for the Olympic team in 2012,” said Pierre Lafontaine, Swimming Canada’s CEO and national coach. “This team came over and showed that they belonged here. They weren’t intimidated by anyone.”

One of the highlight medals for Canada was a silver in the women’s 4X100 medley relay the previous day. The Canadians led the powerful American squad on three of the eight splits and came within 0.21 seconds of causing the biggest upset of the competition.

In Monday’s women’s open water 10 kilometre, Belinda Bennett led Australia to a 1-2 finish clocking two hours and 04 minutes and 11.66 seconds. Danielle DeFrancesco was second in 2:04:13.03 and Hiromi Okazawa of Japan third in 2:04:15.36.

Balazs, who raced to a bronze in the 1,500 freestyle in the pool on Sunday, held the lead entering the third of four laps on the Pacific Ocean course. She clocked 2:04:53.1

“On the third lap I veered off course a little bit,” said Balazs, 18. “That hurt me a bit and the other girls sprinted on the last lap and I just couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know my opponents that well so I wasn’t sure how the race would unfold. But I think the next time I will try to save more energy early in the race.”

Nadine Williams of Edmonton competed in her second career open water race and was sixth in 2:10:22.55.

“I was pleased that I finished the race and I finished strong,” said Williams, 15. “I wasn’t struggling at the end.”

In the men’s 10 kilometre race, Ryan Feeley of the U.S., won the gold medal in 1:53:37.65. Rhys Mainstone of Australia was second and Kohei Yamada of Japan third.

Zack Chetrat of Oakville made his open water debut and placed 16th. Craig Dagnall of Victoria did not finish.

Hassaan Abdel-Khalik of Mississauga won Canada’s gold with a victory on Thursday in the men’s 200 freestyle.

Hannah Riordan of Cornwall, Ont., was involved in all three silver medals placing second in the women’s 100 freestyle, the 4X100 freestyle relay with Paige Schultz of Toronto, Sinead Russell of Oakville and Heather MacLean of Etobicoke and the 4X100 medley relay with Russell, Amanda Reason of Windsor and Kendra Chernoff of Saskatoon.

The bronze medals for the women were won by Russell in the 100 backstroke, Chernoff in the 100 butterfly, Schultz in the 200 individual medley, Zsofia Balazs of Toronto in the 1,500 freestyle and the 4X200 freestyle relay with Schultz, Russell, MacLean and Alexandra Gabor of Whitehorse.

The bronze medals for the men were earned by Matthew Swanston of Newmarket in the 200 backstroke, and the 4X200 and 4X100 freestyle relays with Khalik, Swanston, David Woodman of Calgary and Bogdan Knezevic of Etobicoke.

The Canadian national youth team competes this week at the Olympic Youth Festival in Sydney, Australia.