Canada’s men miss Olympic spot by half point

Stoney Creek’s Kevin Lytwyn and his Canadian teammates were edged out by Italy in men’s gymnastics at the final 2012 Olympic qualification meet on Tuesday (Jan. 10), earning the last full team berth in the 12-country field for the London Games.

The Canadians missed the spot by less than one point. The six-man Canadian squad needed to finish in the top four at the eight-country meet but wound up fifth and out of the Olympics team event for the first time since the 2004 Games in Athens.

Canada will now be limited to just one individual competitor in the men’s event in 2012.

Great Britain romped to first place to the delight of a large British crowd at London’s O2 arena, easily earning its spot at the Games with a total score of 358.227 points. France placed second, (350.659) Spain third, (347.292) and Italy fourth (346.334). The Canadians got off to a strong start but faltered on high bar and floor, two of its strongest events, and finished one spot away from securing the Olympic berth with 345.892 points.

Jackson Payne of Edmonton and Casey Sandy of Brampton, Ont., were Canada’s most consistent performers. Other members of the team were Nathan Gafuik of Calgary, Brandon O’Neill of Edmonton, Ken Ikeda of Abbotsford, B.C., and Lytwyn.

“It’s extremely disappointing to come so close to qualifying and then not make it,” said Canadian program director Jeff Thomson of Vancouver. “But there were a number of significant mistakes and those mistakes meant we didn’t make it.”

Despite coming up short, the Canadian team had come a long way since losing four members from the 2008 Olympic team to retirement, including veteran leader and 2004 gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt of Calgary.

“I don’t believe there’s a single country in the world except the top three — China, Japan and the U.S. — that could lose four super gymnasts all at once as happened to our team after Beijing and still be this close to making it to the Olympics,” said Thomson.

The top eight nations at the 2011 world championships in Tokyo qualified directly for the 2012 Games while teams ranked 9th to 16th advanced to the London qualification meet.

The Canadian women’s team is also in the running for an Olympic berth and competes on Wednesday (Jan. 11).