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Beijing Olympics

China lifts travel ban against people with HIV

By The Associated Press

BEIJING, China – China says it has lifted a 20-year travel ban that barred people with HIV and AIDS from entering the country.

China’s Cabinet, the State Council, said in a statement posted to its website late Tuesday that the government passed the new amendment to the Border Quarantine Law on April 19.

The revised law comes just days ahead of the opening of the Shanghai Expo, which expects to see millions of visitors from overseas.


Olympic poll says Canadians happy with athletes, China and TV

Four members of Canada’s gold medal-winning men’s eight rowing team show off their hardware after arriving at Vancouver International Airport Monday. Left to right, Dominic Seiterle, coxswain Brian Price, Adam Kreek and Malcolm Howard. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

79 per cent satisfied with athletes; 72 per cent liked how CBC covered Games

When rower Krista Guloien led a contingent of 100 Canadian Olympians returning from Beijing down the escalator at Vancouver International Airport Monday she found a country more than satisfied with how the Summer Games turned out.

A new Canadian Press/Harris Decima poll shows Canadians happy with everything from the athletes’ efforts at the Games, the organization of events by the host country, China, and the Olympic coverage shown on CBC television.

Canada won 18 medals in Beijing (three gold, nine silver and six bronze), the country’s second-best performance ever at a non-boycotted Games. (The Atlanta Games in 1996 produced 22 medals.) And that left everyone in a good mood.

“In the run-up to these Games, it wasn’t clear whether broad attention was going to be captured, and obviously it wasn’t clear whether people were going to come away pleased with the outcomes,” said Bruce Anderson, president of Harris Decima.

“As it turned out, the general sentiment is that the Games were a success, Canada’s athletes performed admirably and the coverage provided by the CBC was well regarded, too.”

Among the highlights of the survey of more than 1,000 people across the country:

  • Canadians were satisfied with the performance of the national team in Beijing. Fully 79 per cent of those surveyed were either very satisfied (26 per cent) or satisfied (53 per cent). Only nine per cent were dissatisfied.
  • China’s efforts at organizing and running the Olympics met with a solid majority of support as 66 per cent of those surveyed said they were either very impressed (31 per cent) or somewhat impressed (37 per cent). A total of 21 per cent were either not too impressed or not impressed at all.
  • Television coverage by CBC Sports, English and French, also received high marks. Seventy-two per cent of Canadians who answered the survey thought the coverage was either excellent (35 per cent) or good (37 per cent). Just one in 10 believed the coverage to be fair (eight per cent) or poor (two per cent).

Across the country, 77 per cent said they watched some portion of the Games on television, with the average person taking in 13.76 hours (the survey was taken between last Thursday and the closing of the Games on Sunday).

Those who watched the Games had the highest number of positive reactions toward the athletes, organizers and the CBC.

A sample of this size has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.


Beijing Games come to a close

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Sixteen days, 204 countries, thousands of athletes, 43 world records and countless lasting memories.

The Beijing Games officially came to an end Sunday with the closing ceremony, as China said goodbye to the world with a spectacular show featuring fireworks, song and dance and the athletes themselves.

It was a fitting end to an Olympics that shone on China, a country with a poor record of human rights and where the government’s wariness of dissent and free speech has not wavered, but also a nation that opened itself to the world for these Games.

The International Olympic Committee, whose selection of Beijing as host in 2001 was widely criticized by the global community, said its choice had been vindicated.

“Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever,” IOC president Jacques Rogge told the capacity crowd at the National Outdoor Stadium and the global TV audience.

“Through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world. These were truly exceptional Games,” Rogge said, before declaring the Olympics officially closed.

Liu Qi, the head of the Beijing organizing committee echoed Rogge’s sentiments, saying the Games were a “testimony to the fact that the world has rested its trust in China.”

Human rights groups disagreed

“The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression,” said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch.

“Not a single world leader who attended the Games or members of the IOC seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behaviour in any meaningful way.”

The closing ceremony also looked ahead, to the 2012 Games in London.

Rock musician Jimmy Page’s electric guitar seared through the Bird’s Nest Stadium as English pop star Leona Lewis sung the Led Zeppelin classic Whole Lotta Love. English soccer star David Beckham then emerged and kicked a soccer ball into a crowd of performers on the stadium floor.

Karen Cockburn, who won a silver medal in the women’s trampoline event, served as Canada’s flag-bearer, leading the Canadian contingent of athletes onto the stadium floor.

The Beijing Games marked Canada’s third-best performance at the Olympics — Canada won 22 medals in 1996 in Atlanta and 44 in 1984 in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and several Eastern Bloc countries.

“The Chinese have not only put on a great show tonight, they also did an excellent job overall. This was China’s Olympics, it was well-deserved, and it is effecting positive change here,” Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden told CBC Sports.

The show came to a close with a duet featuring Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and Chinese soprano Song Zuying, followed by a barrage of fireworks and confetti that filled the air.


Openly gay diver wins gold

By Maggie Hendricks- Fourth Place Medal

Diver Matthew Mitcham, the only openly gay male athlete in the Beijing Olympics, won gold in the 10m platform. He beat Chinese favorite Zhou Luxin by 4.8 points, preventing China from sweeping gold in diving events. Mitcham is the first Aussie to win diving gold since 1924, but that’s not the only thing that makes him a trailblazer.

He is hardly the first gay athlete to compete but he is one of the first to be out while competing. American diver Greg Louganis did not share his orientation until his diving career was over. To Mitcham, he is just living his life as a gay man and as a diver, and there is nothing extraordinary about that:

“Being gay and diving are completely separate parts of my life. Of course there’s going to be crossover because some people have issues, but everyone I dive with has been so supportive.”

Though he wants to be known as more than a gay man, the LGBT community is proud of their star. At OutSports, a sports Web site that focuses on the gay community, his win is front-page news. The Web site brings up a good question — will NBC mention Mitcham’s orientation during tonight’s broadcast?

To Mitcham, that doesn’t seem to matter. He has gold, and has reached his goals: “I’m happy with myself and where I am. I’m very happy with who I am and what I’ve done.”

UPDATE: NBC did not mention Mitcham’s orientation, nor did they show his family and partner who were in the stands. NBC has made athletes’ significant others a part of the coverage in the past, choosing to spotlight track athlete Sanya Richards‘ fiancee, a love triangle between French and Italian swimmers and Kerri Walsh‘s wedding ring debacle.

Photos via Getty Images


Roll call of honour: Canada’s medal winners

Canada’s Carol Huynh celebrates after defeating Japan’s Chiharu Icho during their women’s 48kg gold medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 16, 2008. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Kayaker Adam van Koeverden’s silver-medal performance on Day 15 of the Beijing Games pushed Canada’s medal tally to 18 — three gold, nine silver, six bronze.

With no Canadians scheduled to compete Sunday when the Games close, Canada’s medal haul equals the total from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The Beijing Games marks the country’s third-best performance at the Olympics — Canada won 22 medals in 1996 in Atlanta and 44 in 1984 in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and several Eastern Bloc countries.

Here’s a look at all of Canada’s medal winners:

Day 15: Van Koeverden paddles to silver

Canadian Adam van Koeverden won the silver medal in the K-1 500 on Saturday, finding some redemption after a dismal performance in the 1000 metres the day before.

“It was a great moment and the feeling is mostly relief,” he told CBC Sports. “Yesterday, I just didn’t feel like myself. Today, I was climbing back up, getting it back a little bit, but that last 200 still didn’t feel like me. It was a struggle, a well-fought struggle, and I’m really, really happy.”

Van Koeverden had a commanding lead for most of the race but, with about ten metres remaining, he was edged out by former training partner, Australian Ken Wallace, who clocked a time of one minute and 37.252 seconds.

Tim Brabants (1:37.671) of Great Britain claimed the bronze.

Day 14: Canada’s Sergerie kicks to taekwondo silver

Karine Sergerie fought her way to Canada’s best-ever finish in taekwondo, winning silver in the 67-kilogram event.

The 23-year-old from Ste-Catherine, Que., lost a close gold-medal bout to the defending and reigning world champion, South Korea’s Kyungseon Hwang.

The bronze medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games, the South Korean beat Sergerie 2-1, scoring her final point in the last 30 seconds.

“The gold medal was the dream for me. I’m happy that I have the silver and I hope my country is proud of me, but this silver just pushes me even harder to come back and win that gold medal,” Sergerie told CBC.

Day 14: Canada’s Hall wins bronze in C-1 1,000 canoe race

Canadian Thomas Hall won a bronze medal in the C-1 1,000 canoe race, moving from fourth to third in the final 200 metres. He finished in a time of three minutes and 53.653 seconds.

Hall caught Vadim Menkov of Uzbekistan in the final 200 metres and finished about half a second ahead of him to reach the podium.

“I’m ecstatic. I don’t know what else to say,” Hall told CBC Sports. “I knew I had the ability but I didn’t know if I really had it on today. I’m really thrilled and I couldn’t be happier.

Day 13: Lamaze wins equestrian gold for Canada

Equestrian Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, Ont., won the gold medal in the Olympic individual show-jumping competition.

Riding a horse named Hickstead, the Canadian defeated Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in a jump-off to earn Canada’s third gold medal of the Beijing Games.

The victory was sweet redemption for Lamaze, who missed out on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Sydney Games due to positive drug tests. He’s also a member of the Canadian team that won silver in the team jump competition in China.

“When you give people chances and allow them to come back from their mistakes, great things happen and I’m a perfect example that you shouldn’t give up on people,” an emotional Lamaze told CBC Sports.

Day 13: Heymans wins silver in 10-metre platform

Canadian diver Emilie Heymans turned in her best-ever individual Olympic performance, capturing a silver medal.

Heymans, who hails from St-Lambert, Que., secured her second-place standing with a stellar fifth and final dive at the National Aquatics Center, for a total score of 437.05.

“I’m just really happy. It’s hard work for my entire life that came through now,” Heymans told CBC Sports after matching fellow Canadian Alexandre Despatie’s showing in men’s springboard. “I trained really hard for this and I’m just really happy that I finally get a medal in my individual event.

Day 11: Canada’s Lopes-Schliep wins hurdles bronze

Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep won a bronze medal in the 100-metre hurdles final, a race won by Dawn Harper of the United States.

Harper was timed in 12.54 seconds, with Sally McLellan of Australia taking silver.

Lopes-Schliep, of Whitby, Ont., ran in 12.64 seconds, the same time as McLellan, but officials ruled that McLellan was ahead by mere thousandths of a second.

Day 11: Despatie wins silver in men’s diving for Canada

Alexandre Despatie won Canada’s third medal on Day 11, finishing second in the men’s three-metre springboard diving competition.

Despatie, a 23-year-old native of Laval, Que., finished with a total score of 536.65 points from six dives to claim the silver medal.

He also took the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

“My silver medal is gold to me because of all the bad things that happened to me this year,” said Despatie. “I was able to get it together.”

Day 11: Burnett wins silver in men’s trampoline for Canada

Canada’s Jason Burnett won silver in men’s trampoline.

Burnett, 21, was the second finalist on the trampoline and earned a score of 40.70 for his routine, which featured a degree of difficulty of 16.8 – the highest in the final.

The three-time Canadian champion from Toronto told the CBC that playing it safe with an easier routine wasn’t even a consideration.

“No, definitely not,” Burnett said. “This is the Olympics. This is it. Why play it safe?

“You might as well put it all on the line and go for broke, and it paid off today with a silver medal.”

Day 11: Canada’s Whitfield takes silver in triathlon

Canada’s Simon Whitfield captured the silver medal in the men’s triathlon.

Whitfield, who lives in Victoria, mounted a furious rally to briefly take the lead late in the closing sprint before being overtaken over the final stretch by Germany’s Jan Frodeno.

“I kind of fought my way on there, and I thought there’s no time like the present,” Whitfield said. “I tried to make it a battle of pure willpower. I gave it everything I had.”

Day 10: Canada wins silver medal in team jumping

Canada earned a silver in the team jumping competition, giving veteran rider Ian Millar his first medal in his ninth Olympic appearance.

Canada was tied with the United States with 20 penalty points at the Hong Kong equestrian venue, but three American riders went through the course perfectly in a jump-off.

Millar, 61, led Canada into the tiebreaker round with a perfect ride on In Style. Millar was due third in the jump-off, but the Americans ensured he didn’t have a chance to go again.

“The support we’ve had all year, everybody’s recognized that we had a shot at this thing, such enthusiasm, such support, and that’s a big motivator to us,” Millar told CBC Sports. “We all say thank you very much to those who support it and those who believe in us.”

Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., and Eric Lamaze of Schombeg, Ont., also competed for Canada. Henselwood rode Special Ed, with Lamaze on Hickstead.

Day 10: Canada’s Cockburn lands silver in trampoline

Canada’s Karen Cockburn won the silver medal in the women’s trampoline, her third Olympic medal in the event.

Cockburn, of Stouffville, Ont., earned a score of 37.00 for her routine, which had a degree of difficulty of 14.4, to earn Canada its eighth medal overall of the Games.

“It feels amazing,” Cockburn told the CBC. “I was just honoured to be here competing in my third Games for Canada and to come out again on the podium with a silver medal… I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, but I’m really happy.”

Day 9: Gold-medal redemption for Canadian men’s eight

The men’s eight rowing team finished the job they started four years ago by winning a gold medal.

Canada led wire-to-wire in the final race at Beijing’s Shunyi Olympic rowing park. Taking the silver was Great Britain and taking the bronze was the U.S.

Canada finished in a time of five minutes, 23.89 seconds.

“We never stopped, we just kept on pushing, every stroke,” said coxswain Brian Price.

Day 9: Women’s double sculls win bronze in photo finish

Canadian women’s lightweight double sculls rowing pair Melanie Kok and Tracy Cameron clinched the bronze medal in a photo finish.

Kok and Cameron finished in six minutes, 56.68 seconds, behind Kirsten van der Kolk and Marit van Eupen of the Netherlands, who won the gold, and Sanna Sten and Minna Niemenen of Finland, who took silver.

The race came to such a close finish that the result was in doubt for several seconds before the Canadians realized they had beaten the Germans by 0.04 seconds.

“We had to find a little something extra to get beyond them,” Cameron told the CBC. “Just close your eyes and go.”

Day 9: Men’s lightweight four win Canada’s 2nd bronze of day

The Canadian lightweight men’s four won Canada’s second rowing bronze.

The crew of Iain Brambell, Jon Beare, Mike Lewis and Liam Parsons finished in five minutes, 50.09 seconds at Shunyi Olympic rowing park.

Canada used a late surge to grab a medal, and almost moved into second place in the final leg

Day 9: Canada’s Ryan Cochrane swims to bronze

Teenager Ryan Cochrane won Canada’s first Olympic swimming medal since 2000, taking bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle.

The 19-year-old from Victoria finished third in a time of 14 minutes 42.69 seconds.

Fourth-place finisher Yuriy Prilukov mounted a furious campaign for the bronze over the final few laps. But the Russian was held off at the end by Cochrane, who had battled Hackett for first place for much of the race.

“I knew that [Prilukov] could catch me because he did in the 400 [freestyle],” Cochrane told CBC Sports. “I knew I just had to give my all.”

Day 8: Wrestler Verbeek captures Canada’s third medal

Canadian wrestler Tonya Verbeek won the second Olympic medal of her career and Canada’s third of the Beijing Games on Day 8.

The Beamsville, Ont., native won bronze in the 55-kilogram weight class, beating Ida-Theres Nerell of Sweden by a score of 1-0, 1-0 in one of two bronze medal matches.

She was smiling after the match, despite finishing one medal position below her 2004 Athens result. “I won a match to get the bronze and you’re losing a match to get the silver,” Verbeek said. “So it is a different feeling.”

Day 8: Canada’s Huynh grapples to gold

Wrestler Carol Huynh of Hazelton, B.C., won Canada’s first gold medal on Day 8.

The 27-year-old captured gold in the 48-kilogram freestyle weight class over Japan’s Chiharu Icho by a score of 4-0 and 2-1.

“This is unbelievable,” she told CBC Sports following the medal ceremony. “I knew I wanted to go in with supreme confidence in my abilities, and not doubting myself one second. That’s what I did, and I wrestled the match of my life, and it was awesome.”

Day 8: Canadians row to silver medal

The Canadian men’s rowing pair Scott Frandsen and Dave Calder ended Canada’s Olympic medal drought on Day 8.

The pair won a silver medal on the water at Shunyi Olympic rowing park on Saturday, the first Canadians to reach the medal podium in Beijing.

“It was a tough race, we tried to ignore the fact that we haven’t had a medal yet as a country, and just focus on our two [kilometres],” Calder told CBC Sports after the race.

“We can come off the water knowing we had a great race,” said Frandsen.


Roll call of honour: Canada's medal winners

Canada’s Carol Huynh celebrates after defeating Japan’s Chiharu Icho during their women’s 48kg gold medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 16, 2008. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Kayaker Adam van Koeverden’s silver-medal performance on Day 15 of the Beijing Games pushed Canada’s medal tally to 18 — three gold, nine silver, six bronze.

With no Canadians scheduled to compete Sunday when the Games close, Canada’s medal haul equals the total from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The Beijing Games marks the country’s third-best performance at the Olympics — Canada won 22 medals in 1996 in Atlanta and 44 in 1984 in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and several Eastern Bloc countries.

Here’s a look at all of Canada’s medal winners:

Day 15: Van Koeverden paddles to silver

Canadian Adam van Koeverden won the silver medal in the K-1 500 on Saturday, finding some redemption after a dismal performance in the 1000 metres the day before.

“It was a great moment and the feeling is mostly relief,” he told CBC Sports. “Yesterday, I just didn’t feel like myself. Today, I was climbing back up, getting it back a little bit, but that last 200 still didn’t feel like me. It was a struggle, a well-fought struggle, and I’m really, really happy.”

Van Koeverden had a commanding lead for most of the race but, with about ten metres remaining, he was edged out by former training partner, Australian Ken Wallace, who clocked a time of one minute and 37.252 seconds.

Tim Brabants (1:37.671) of Great Britain claimed the bronze.

Day 14: Canada’s Sergerie kicks to taekwondo silver

Karine Sergerie fought her way to Canada’s best-ever finish in taekwondo, winning silver in the 67-kilogram event.

The 23-year-old from Ste-Catherine, Que., lost a close gold-medal bout to the defending and reigning world champion, South Korea’s Kyungseon Hwang.

The bronze medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games, the South Korean beat Sergerie 2-1, scoring her final point in the last 30 seconds.

“The gold medal was the dream for me. I’m happy that I have the silver and I hope my country is proud of me, but this silver just pushes me even harder to come back and win that gold medal,” Sergerie told CBC.

Day 14: Canada’s Hall wins bronze in C-1 1,000 canoe race

Canadian Thomas Hall won a bronze medal in the C-1 1,000 canoe race, moving from fourth to third in the final 200 metres. He finished in a time of three minutes and 53.653 seconds.

Hall caught Vadim Menkov of Uzbekistan in the final 200 metres and finished about half a second ahead of him to reach the podium.

“I’m ecstatic. I don’t know what else to say,” Hall told CBC Sports. “I knew I had the ability but I didn’t know if I really had it on today. I’m really thrilled and I couldn’t be happier.

Day 13: Lamaze wins equestrian gold for Canada

Equestrian Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, Ont., won the gold medal in the Olympic individual show-jumping competition.

Riding a horse named Hickstead, the Canadian defeated Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in a jump-off to earn Canada’s third gold medal of the Beijing Games.

The victory was sweet redemption for Lamaze, who missed out on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Sydney Games due to positive drug tests. He’s also a member of the Canadian team that won silver in the team jump competition in China.

“When you give people chances and allow them to come back from their mistakes, great things happen and I’m a perfect example that you shouldn’t give up on people,” an emotional Lamaze told CBC Sports.

Day 13: Heymans wins silver in 10-metre platform

Canadian diver Emilie Heymans turned in her best-ever individual Olympic performance, capturing a silver medal.

Heymans, who hails from St-Lambert, Que., secured her second-place standing with a stellar fifth and final dive at the National Aquatics Center, for a total score of 437.05.

“I’m just really happy. It’s hard work for my entire life that came through now,” Heymans told CBC Sports after matching fellow Canadian Alexandre Despatie’s showing in men’s springboard. “I trained really hard for this and I’m just really happy that I finally get a medal in my individual event.

Day 11: Canada’s Lopes-Schliep wins hurdles bronze

Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep won a bronze medal in the 100-metre hurdles final, a race won by Dawn Harper of the United States.

Harper was timed in 12.54 seconds, with Sally McLellan of Australia taking silver.

Lopes-Schliep, of Whitby, Ont., ran in 12.64 seconds, the same time as McLellan, but officials ruled that McLellan was ahead by mere thousandths of a second.

Day 11: Despatie wins silver in men’s diving for Canada

Alexandre Despatie won Canada’s third medal on Day 11, finishing second in the men’s three-metre springboard diving competition.

Despatie, a 23-year-old native of Laval, Que., finished with a total score of 536.65 points from six dives to claim the silver medal.

He also took the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

“My silver medal is gold to me because of all the bad things that happened to me this year,” said Despatie. “I was able to get it together.”

Day 11: Burnett wins silver in men’s trampoline for Canada

Canada’s Jason Burnett won silver in men’s trampoline.

Burnett, 21, was the second finalist on the trampoline and earned a score of 40.70 for his routine, which featured a degree of difficulty of 16.8 – the highest in the final.

The three-time Canadian champion from Toronto told the CBC that playing it safe with an easier routine wasn’t even a consideration.

“No, definitely not,” Burnett said. “This is the Olympics. This is it. Why play it safe?

“You might as well put it all on the line and go for broke, and it paid off today with a silver medal.”

Day 11: Canada’s Whitfield takes silver in triathlon

Canada’s Simon Whitfield captured the silver medal in the men’s triathlon.

Whitfield, who lives in Victoria, mounted a furious rally to briefly take the lead late in the closing sprint before being overtaken over the final stretch by Germany’s Jan Frodeno.

“I kind of fought my way on there, and I thought there’s no time like the present,” Whitfield said. “I tried to make it a battle of pure willpower. I gave it everything I had.”

Day 10: Canada wins silver medal in team jumping

Canada earned a silver in the team jumping competition, giving veteran rider Ian Millar his first medal in his ninth Olympic appearance.

Canada was tied with the United States with 20 penalty points at the Hong Kong equestrian venue, but three American riders went through the course perfectly in a jump-off.

Millar, 61, led Canada into the tiebreaker round with a perfect ride on In Style. Millar was due third in the jump-off, but the Americans ensured he didn’t have a chance to go again.

“The support we’ve had all year, everybody’s recognized that we had a shot at this thing, such enthusiasm, such support, and that’s a big motivator to us,” Millar told CBC Sports. “We all say thank you very much to those who support it and those who believe in us.”

Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., and Eric Lamaze of Schombeg, Ont., also competed for Canada. Henselwood rode Special Ed, with Lamaze on Hickstead.

Day 10: Canada’s Cockburn lands silver in trampoline

Canada’s Karen Cockburn won the silver medal in the women’s trampoline, her third Olympic medal in the event.

Cockburn, of Stouffville, Ont., earned a score of 37.00 for her routine, which had a degree of difficulty of 14.4, to earn Canada its eighth medal overall of the Games.

“It feels amazing,” Cockburn told the CBC. “I was just honoured to be here competing in my third Games for Canada and to come out again on the podium with a silver medal… I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, but I’m really happy.”

Day 9: Gold-medal redemption for Canadian men’s eight

The men’s eight rowing team finished the job they started four years ago by winning a gold medal.

Canada led wire-to-wire in the final race at Beijing’s Shunyi Olympic rowing park. Taking the silver was Great Britain and taking the bronze was the U.S.

Canada finished in a time of five minutes, 23.89 seconds.

“We never stopped, we just kept on pushing, every stroke,” said coxswain Brian Price.

Day 9: Women’s double sculls win bronze in photo finish

Canadian women’s lightweight double sculls rowing pair Melanie Kok and Tracy Cameron clinched the bronze medal in a photo finish.

Kok and Cameron finished in six minutes, 56.68 seconds, behind Kirsten van der Kolk and Marit van Eupen of the Netherlands, who won the gold, and Sanna Sten and Minna Niemenen of Finland, who took silver.

The race came to such a close finish that the result was in doubt for several seconds before the Canadians realized they had beaten the Germans by 0.04 seconds.

“We had to find a little something extra to get beyond them,” Cameron told the CBC. “Just close your eyes and go.”

Day 9: Men’s lightweight four win Canada’s 2nd bronze of day

The Canadian lightweight men’s four won Canada’s second rowing bronze.

The crew of Iain Brambell, Jon Beare, Mike Lewis and Liam Parsons finished in five minutes, 50.09 seconds at Shunyi Olympic rowing park.

Canada used a late surge to grab a medal, and almost moved into second place in the final leg

Day 9: Canada’s Ryan Cochrane swims to bronze

Teenager Ryan Cochrane won Canada’s first Olympic swimming medal since 2000, taking bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle.

The 19-year-old from Victoria finished third in a time of 14 minutes 42.69 seconds.

Fourth-place finisher Yuriy Prilukov mounted a furious campaign for the bronze over the final few laps. But the Russian was held off at the end by Cochrane, who had battled Hackett for first place for much of the race.

“I knew that [Prilukov] could catch me because he did in the 400 [freestyle],” Cochrane told CBC Sports. “I knew I just had to give my all.”

Day 8: Wrestler Verbeek captures Canada’s third medal

Canadian wrestler Tonya Verbeek won the second Olympic medal of her career and Canada’s third of the Beijing Games on Day 8.

The Beamsville, Ont., native won bronze in the 55-kilogram weight class, beating Ida-Theres Nerell of Sweden by a score of 1-0, 1-0 in one of two bronze medal matches.

She was smiling after the match, despite finishing one medal position below her 2004 Athens result. “I won a match to get the bronze and you’re losing a match to get the silver,” Verbeek said. “So it is a different feeling.”

Day 8: Canada’s Huynh grapples to gold

Wrestler Carol Huynh of Hazelton, B.C., won Canada’s first gold medal on Day 8.

The 27-year-old captured gold in the 48-kilogram freestyle weight class over Japan’s Chiharu Icho by a score of 4-0 and 2-1.

“This is unbelievable,” she told CBC Sports following the medal ceremony. “I knew I wanted to go in with supreme confidence in my abilities, and not doubting myself one second. That’s what I did, and I wrestled the match of my life, and it was awesome.”

Day 8: Canadians row to silver medal

The Canadian men’s rowing pair Scott Frandsen and Dave Calder ended Canada’s Olympic medal drought on Day 8.

The pair won a silver medal on the water at Shunyi Olympic rowing park on Saturday, the first Canadians to reach the medal podium in Beijing.

“It was a tough race, we tried to ignore the fact that we haven’t had a medal yet as a country, and just focus on our two [kilometres],” Calder told CBC Sports after the race.

“We can come off the water knowing we had a great race,” said Frandsen.


Van Koeverden takes silver

Adam van Koeverden dominated his semifinal heat in the K-1 500, though he didn’t post the fastest overall time. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Adam van Koeverden won the silver medal in the K-1 500, finding some redemption after a dismal performance in the 1000 on Friday.

Heading into the Games, he was considered a medal favourite in this race because he was the defending Olympic and world champion, and had won all three races on the World Cup circuit this season.

But in the hours before the 500 final, there was some concern he wouldn’t be in top form for the big race; he suffered a crushing defeat on Friday, finishing eighth in a field of nine paddlers in the 1000.

“I just didn’t have it,” a distraught van Koeverden told CBC Sports after that race. “It’s a hell of a time not to have it. It’s the worst 1000 metres I have put together in years.”

Van Koeverden was one of the strongest medal contenders heading into that race. He won two gold medals and one bronze in three World Cup races this season. He also claimed the bronze in the 1000 at the 2004 Athens Games as well as three silvers (2003, 2005, 2007) at world championships.

*******************************************

Adam van Koeverden defends his Olympic title in the final of the 500-metre kayak singles on Saturday, while two other teams of Canadian flatwater paddlers will try for medals in their events.

Canada has entries in three of the six finals at the Shunyi course on Saturday, the last day of paddling competition in Beijing. All races are at the 500-metre distance.

Richard Dober and Andrew Willows are set to compete in the kayak doubles final, while Andrew Russell and Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny race in the canoe doubles.

For van Koeverden, who served as Canada’s flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremony, Saturday’s race presents a great chance to redeem himself.

The 26-year-old was considered a strong medal contender in Friday’s K-1 1,000, the event in which he took bronze at the 2004 Athens Games.

Instead, he finished eighth in a field of nine paddlers.

“I just didn’t have it,” a distraught van Koeverden told CBC Sports after the race. “It’s a hell of a time not to have it. It’s the worst 1000 metres I have put together in years.”

He paused for a moment then looked directly at the CBC television camera recording the interview. “I’m sorry,” he said, addressing viewers. “I don’t know what to say, I’m pretty speechless right now.”

Van Koeverden returns to the water as the prohibitive favourite in Saturday’s K-1 500 final (3:30 a.m. ET). The Oakville, Ont., native is the reigning world champion at his favourite distance, and is unbeaten in World Cup competition this season.

Van Koeverden looked impressive in Thursday’s semifinals, crossing the finish line in one minute 42.438 seconds, a boat-length ahead of his nearest competitior in the first heat.

Dober, Willows win convincingly

Croatian Stjepan Janic (1.41.689) posted the fastest run overall in winning the third heat. Steven Ferguson of New Zealand took the second heat in 1:42.238.

Times were relatively slow because the athletes had to paddle into a stiff wind.

“It was business as you said,” said van Koeverden, who in Tuesday’s heats broke his own world record with a time of 1:35.554. “It was tough. A headwind is always hard.

“It felt a little more like a final than the heat did, that’s for sure. We’re not going to see fast times today. But that is just the nature of the wind.”

Dober, from Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Willows, from Gananoque, Ont., look to have a shot at a medal in Saturday’s K-2 500 final (4:35 a.m. ET). The pair won their semifinal in convincing fashion Thursday, growing stronger towards the end and edging out the Polish boat that led the bulk of the race by 11-100ths of a second.

Russell, from Dartmouth, N.S., and Beauchesne-Sevigny, from Trois Rivières, Que., needed a dramatic finish to scrape into the final of the C-2 500 (5:05 a.m. ET). Coming on strong over the final half of Thursday’s semifinal, the Canadians crossed third to claim the last berth in the medal race.

Three other 500-metre paddling finals are on tap for Saturday. No Canadians are entered in the men’s canoe singles, women’s kayak singles, or women’s kayak doubles.


Despatie wins silver in men's diving for Canada

Diver Alexandre Despatie of Canada won silver in the men’s three-metre springboard final at the Beijing Games on Tuesday. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Alexandre Despatie won Canada’s third medal on Day 11, finishing second in the men’s three-metre springboard diving competition at the Beijing Olympics.

Despatie, a 23-year-old native of Laval, Que., finished with a total score of 536.65 points from six dives to claim the silver medal Tuesday.

He also took the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

“My silver medal is gold to me because of all the bad things that happened to me this year,” said Despatie. “I was able to get it together.”

He Chong of China won the gold (572.90 points) and countryman Qin Kai, the reigning world champion, took the bronze (530.10).

It was sweet redemption for Despatie, who was bothered by back problems in the months leading up to the Games. He also fractrured his foot while playing soccer in April.

“The hardest part of coming back from that injury was mentally,” Despatie said. “Physically we always do the training. Mentally it was very hard for me to stay positive and believe I was going to pull this off, believe that I was going to be able to come in, put six dives together, and perform.”

Despatie advanced to the final by finishing second behind He in the semifinals earlier in the day. Reuben Ross, a 22-year-old native of Regina, placed 18th overall with a six-dive score of 395.85 and did not make the final.

China’s He earned 11 perfect marks of 10.0 in the six-round final to take the gold.

China has won all six diving competitions at the Beijing Games with two events remaining.

“It is extremely hard to come into China and compete against them,” said Despatie. “They are so strong already. Being home just makes them that much stronger.”


Despatie wins silver in men’s diving for Canada

Diver Alexandre Despatie of Canada won silver in the men’s three-metre springboard final at the Beijing Games on Tuesday. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Alexandre Despatie won Canada’s third medal on Day 11, finishing second in the men’s three-metre springboard diving competition at the Beijing Olympics.

Despatie, a 23-year-old native of Laval, Que., finished with a total score of 536.65 points from six dives to claim the silver medal Tuesday.

He also took the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

“My silver medal is gold to me because of all the bad things that happened to me this year,” said Despatie. “I was able to get it together.”

He Chong of China won the gold (572.90 points) and countryman Qin Kai, the reigning world champion, took the bronze (530.10).

It was sweet redemption for Despatie, who was bothered by back problems in the months leading up to the Games. He also fractrured his foot while playing soccer in April.

“The hardest part of coming back from that injury was mentally,” Despatie said. “Physically we always do the training. Mentally it was very hard for me to stay positive and believe I was going to pull this off, believe that I was going to be able to come in, put six dives together, and perform.”

Despatie advanced to the final by finishing second behind He in the semifinals earlier in the day. Reuben Ross, a 22-year-old native of Regina, placed 18th overall with a six-dive score of 395.85 and did not make the final.

China’s He earned 11 perfect marks of 10.0 in the six-round final to take the gold.

China has won all six diving competitions at the Beijing Games with two events remaining.

“It is extremely hard to come into China and compete against them,” said Despatie. “They are so strong already. Being home just makes them that much stronger.”


Askren's long wait for shot on Olympic mat ends in tears

By Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN.com LINK HERE TO STORY

BEIJING — The hair is unbearably short now. It is curly and cropped close to his cauliflower ears, the victim of a scissor-happy barber in Beijing. The woman wouldn’t stop cutting. Before Ben Askren knew it, 5 inches were on the floor.

This is how badly Askren wants to win a gold medal — he shed his coveted locks, his trademark — because the international guys like to pull on them when they wrestle.

“‘Vision Quest’ is a terrible, terrible movie,” Askren says during a deep-thoughts session from his room in the Olympic Village. “It’s just so stereotypical and ’80s.”

It is Monday afternoon in Beijing, less than 48 hours before the American will wrestle in his first Olympic match. He’s had a lot of time to think about hair, handball and bad wrestling movies, maybe too much. For nearly two weeks, while Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and 180 national anthems were played, Askren has been waiting. The night of the Opening Ceremony, wide-eyed and anxious, he asked a strange young woman to take a picture of him. The woman ended up being President Bush’s daughter Barbara.

Askren laughed it off. This is why matheads think he might go all the way — he is loose and unconventional.

He has heard about the betting line, the one that puts his gold-medal chances at 20 to 1. It is not that ridiculous. Askren is 24 years old, a baby in the eyes of grizzled superheroes like Russian Buvaysa Saytiev and Cuban Ivan Fundora. Saytiev is the gold standard; he won it all in Atlanta and Athens. If he takes this Olympics, he will be considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever.

Nobody at China Agricultural University Gymnasium, it seems, is talking about Askren. The preview sheet for the 163-pound (74-kilogram) freestyle field comes out, and Askren is not mentioned among favorites or challengers. There is one sentence about him at the bottom.

“Ben Askren is an outspoken young wrestler with limited international experience…”

It doesn’t rankle Askren.

“In my head, there is a 100 percent chance I’m going to win,” he says. “I think I should win every time I go on the mat.”


The thing about Askren’s hair is that it is always a conversation piece. When he was at the University of Missouri in 2006, he cut it into a mullet after nationals. He was a rock star in Columbia, easily spotted around campus with his wild, blond ‘fro.

His wrestling style was called “funky.” His long, lanky body allowed him to take chances. Askren became a two-time NCAA champion at 174 pounds and a four-time finalist. He still holds the NCAA’s single-season pins record and is the first Mizzou grad to become an Olympic wrestler.

When the local paper, the Columbia Tribune, did a Q&A with him called “The Ben Commandments,” he was asked if he was good enough to make the Olympics.

“No,” Askren said 17 months ago, “but I think I will be shortly.”

Two times a day, 12 years of workouts. Askren says making the Olympics didn’t hit him until he was asked to speak in front of a bunch of kids, telling them about how he got there. When he got in his car afterward, he started to bawl.


He bought a $27 suit at a silk store in Beijing, but he questions if it’s actually an Armani. He scaled the Great Wall. Now, Askren is bored. He must lose about 10 pounds in 26 hours. Normally, wrestlers hate talking about cutting weight, especially just before a match.

Askren simply shrugs. He’ll eat a small breakfast Monday, a couple of Clif Bars for lunch and a light dinner. He’ll sweat off the bulk of the weight he needs to lose in the sauna. He’ll also drop a few pounds with what he calls a “light” cardiovascular workout Monday night.

Fact is, he can’t do much today. If he walks around the city, he’ll expend too much energy. He can’t talk too much on his international phone, either, because it costs too much.

He will have an entourage of roughly 30 people in Beijing on Wednesday, friends and followers from Missouri and his hometown of Hartland, Wis. They love him for his humor, his swagger and the way his chin juts out before matches. At the Olympic trials this summer, some of his flock made up T-shirts that said, “Putting the Chin in China.”

Askren told them to leave the shirts home because he “didn’t want to make anyone upset” in Beijing. He has been wrestling internationally for only one year but was brimming with confidence at the trials, where he told reporters that he would win a gold medal.

“If I could compare him to one person …” says Martin Floreani of flowrestling.com, “he is to the wrestling world what Muhammad Ali is to the boxing world. He’s that much of an entertainer.

“He’s cocky, he’s confident, he’s brash. He’s outspoken and funny. People either love him or hate him. It makes him special.”


It is Tuesday afternoon, weigh-in time for Askren. He is not worried about making it. He scoffs at the notion that the scale might tip at 164. He’s come too far to not make weight.

The weigh-in room is in the warm-up area of the China Agricultural University Gymnasium. Askren lays face-down on a mat before stepping on the scale. He comes in perfectly, then draws a card to find out who he’ll be wrestling tomorrow. It is not good news. Askren picks No. 14, which means he will not get a bye and would have to face the Cuban in the second round and Saytiev in the third.

He says he is unconcerned about the draw, but is noticeably quieter than Monday. “I’m excited about it because I get to see exactly how good I am,” he says. “I’m ready to rumble.”

He says he doesn’t know when he’ll go to bed tonight. “When I get tired.”

He says he feels no pressure to win for the people of Hartland or Missouri.

“What I do tomorrow,” he says, “I do for myself.”

Askren watches the high jump on TV late Tuesday night before going to sleep. They get four Olympic channels in the village. He watched softball on Monday and let out an “Oooh” when someone got hit in the leg.

Most wrestlers hate being bothered the night before a match. An hour and a half before world trials last year, Askren chatted with Floreani about global warming while helpers scurried to fix his hair up in corn rows.

“I want to save my focus,” Askren says. “I know I’m ready. I know I have all the ability.”


The Askren cheering section is easy to find. They’re the ones in the middle of the bleachers, wearing bushy wigs and holding American flags. When Askren walks out to the mat at about 10 a.m., he looks up at his fans, sticks his chin out and smiles.

His Hungarian opponent takes a quick 2-0 lead, then Askren turns it on. He pins Istvan Vereb, slaps his hands together, then nods to the crowd.

In 20 minutes, after a quick rest on the mats in the warm-up area, Askren will be out again to face Fundora. He’s 32 and won a bronze medal in Athens.

The knock on Askren is he’s great on the offensive but struggles when wrestlers go after his legs. Fundora does that immediately. He is one of the best tacklers in the world. Fundora wins the first period 3-1, and the “USA” chants can’t help Askren. He falls behind 2-0, then 4-0.

He stands with his hands on his hips when it’s over and the Cuban moves on. Askren must now hope that Fundora beats the Russian so he can continue on for a bronze. It’s called, “Follow the leader.” If Fundora loses, Askren is finished.

Saytiev beats the Cuban, and Askren finally emerges behind the gates to speak to the media. The chin quivers. He starts to sob.

“I don’t know what you want to hear from me,” Askren says. “My dreams are crushed.

“I just wasn’t good enough. I sucked.”

Two weeks, and he’s done in two hours. Askren says he doesn’t know where he’ll go from here. There has been talk that he’ll try mixed martial arts, but his coach, Shawn Charles, is sure Askren will be back. He couldn’t end it this way.

After an awkward pause, Askren leaves. He has nothing else to say.


Askren’s long wait for shot on Olympic mat ends in tears

By Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN.com LINK HERE TO STORY

BEIJING — The hair is unbearably short now. It is curly and cropped close to his cauliflower ears, the victim of a scissor-happy barber in Beijing. The woman wouldn’t stop cutting. Before Ben Askren knew it, 5 inches were on the floor.

This is how badly Askren wants to win a gold medal — he shed his coveted locks, his trademark — because the international guys like to pull on them when they wrestle.

“‘Vision Quest’ is a terrible, terrible movie,” Askren says during a deep-thoughts session from his room in the Olympic Village. “It’s just so stereotypical and ’80s.”

It is Monday afternoon in Beijing, less than 48 hours before the American will wrestle in his first Olympic match. He’s had a lot of time to think about hair, handball and bad wrestling movies, maybe too much. For nearly two weeks, while Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and 180 national anthems were played, Askren has been waiting. The night of the Opening Ceremony, wide-eyed and anxious, he asked a strange young woman to take a picture of him. The woman ended up being President Bush’s daughter Barbara.

Askren laughed it off. This is why matheads think he might go all the way — he is loose and unconventional.

He has heard about the betting line, the one that puts his gold-medal chances at 20 to 1. It is not that ridiculous. Askren is 24 years old, a baby in the eyes of grizzled superheroes like Russian Buvaysa Saytiev and Cuban Ivan Fundora. Saytiev is the gold standard; he won it all in Atlanta and Athens. If he takes this Olympics, he will be considered one of the greatest wrestlers ever.

Nobody at China Agricultural University Gymnasium, it seems, is talking about Askren. The preview sheet for the 163-pound (74-kilogram) freestyle field comes out, and Askren is not mentioned among favorites or challengers. There is one sentence about him at the bottom.

“Ben Askren is an outspoken young wrestler with limited international experience…”

It doesn’t rankle Askren.

“In my head, there is a 100 percent chance I’m going to win,” he says. “I think I should win every time I go on the mat.”


The thing about Askren’s hair is that it is always a conversation piece. When he was at the University of Missouri in 2006, he cut it into a mullet after nationals. He was a rock star in Columbia, easily spotted around campus with his wild, blond ‘fro.

His wrestling style was called “funky.” His long, lanky body allowed him to take chances. Askren became a two-time NCAA champion at 174 pounds and a four-time finalist. He still holds the NCAA’s single-season pins record and is the first Mizzou grad to become an Olympic wrestler.

When the local paper, the Columbia Tribune, did a Q&A with him called “The Ben Commandments,” he was asked if he was good enough to make the Olympics.

“No,” Askren said 17 months ago, “but I think I will be shortly.”

Two times a day, 12 years of workouts. Askren says making the Olympics didn’t hit him until he was asked to speak in front of a bunch of kids, telling them about how he got there. When he got in his car afterward, he started to bawl.


He bought a $27 suit at a silk store in Beijing, but he questions if it’s actually an Armani. He scaled the Great Wall. Now, Askren is bored. He must lose about 10 pounds in 26 hours. Normally, wrestlers hate talking about cutting weight, especially just before a match.

Askren simply shrugs. He’ll eat a small breakfast Monday, a couple of Clif Bars for lunch and a light dinner. He’ll sweat off the bulk of the weight he needs to lose in the sauna. He’ll also drop a few pounds with what he calls a “light” cardiovascular workout Monday night.

Fact is, he can’t do much today. If he walks around the city, he’ll expend too much energy. He can’t talk too much on his international phone, either, because it costs too much.

He will have an entourage of roughly 30 people in Beijing on Wednesday, friends and followers from Missouri and his hometown of Hartland, Wis. They love him for his humor, his swagger and the way his chin juts out before matches. At the Olympic trials this summer, some of his flock made up T-shirts that said, “Putting the Chin in China.”

Askren told them to leave the shirts home because he “didn’t want to make anyone upset” in Beijing. He has been wrestling internationally for only one year but was brimming with confidence at the trials, where he told reporters that he would win a gold medal.

“If I could compare him to one person …” says Martin Floreani of flowrestling.com, “he is to the wrestling world what Muhammad Ali is to the boxing world. He’s that much of an entertainer.

“He’s cocky, he’s confident, he’s brash. He’s outspoken and funny. People either love him or hate him. It makes him special.”


It is Tuesday afternoon, weigh-in time for Askren. He is not worried about making it. He scoffs at the notion that the scale might tip at 164. He’s come too far to not make weight.

The weigh-in room is in the warm-up area of the China Agricultural University Gymnasium. Askren lays face-down on a mat before stepping on the scale. He comes in perfectly, then draws a card to find out who he’ll be wrestling tomorrow. It is not good news. Askren picks No. 14, which means he will not get a bye and would have to face the Cuban in the second round and Saytiev in the third.

He says he is unconcerned about the draw, but is noticeably quieter than Monday. “I’m excited about it because I get to see exactly how good I am,” he says. “I’m ready to rumble.”

He says he doesn’t know when he’ll go to bed tonight. “When I get tired.”

He says he feels no pressure to win for the people of Hartland or Missouri.

“What I do tomorrow,” he says, “I do for myself.”

Askren watches the high jump on TV late Tuesday night before going to sleep. They get four Olympic channels in the village. He watched softball on Monday and let out an “Oooh” when someone got hit in the leg.

Most wrestlers hate being bothered the night before a match. An hour and a half before world trials last year, Askren chatted with Floreani about global warming while helpers scurried to fix his hair up in corn rows.

“I want to save my focus,” Askren says. “I know I’m ready. I know I have all the ability.”


The Askren cheering section is easy to find. They’re the ones in the middle of the bleachers, wearing bushy wigs and holding American flags. When Askren walks out to the mat at about 10 a.m., he looks up at his fans, sticks his chin out and smiles.

His Hungarian opponent takes a quick 2-0 lead, then Askren turns it on. He pins Istvan Vereb, slaps his hands together, then nods to the crowd.

In 20 minutes, after a quick rest on the mats in the warm-up area, Askren will be out again to face Fundora. He’s 32 and won a bronze medal in Athens.

The knock on Askren is he’s great on the offensive but struggles when wrestlers go after his legs. Fundora does that immediately. He is one of the best tacklers in the world. Fundora wins the first period 3-1, and the “USA” chants can’t help Askren. He falls behind 2-0, then 4-0.

He stands with his hands on his hips when it’s over and the Cuban moves on. Askren must now hope that Fundora beats the Russian so he can continue on for a bronze. It’s called, “Follow the leader.” If Fundora loses, Askren is finished.

Saytiev beats the Cuban, and Askren finally emerges behind the gates to speak to the media. The chin quivers. He starts to sob.

“I don’t know what you want to hear from me,” Askren says. “My dreams are crushed.

“I just wasn’t good enough. I sucked.”

Two weeks, and he’s done in two hours. Askren says he doesn’t know where he’ll go from here. There has been talk that he’ll try mixed martial arts, but his coach, Shawn Charles, is sure Askren will be back. He couldn’t end it this way.

After an awkward pause, Askren leaves. He has nothing else to say.


Van Koeverden advances to K-1 1000 final

Adam van Koeverden, seen here in June, started his bid for Olympic gold on Monday. (Getty Images)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Canadian Adam van Koeverden advanced to the final of the men’s K-1 1000 metres by winning his heat on Monday.

Van Koeverden, one of the most celebrated Canadians at these Games, led wire to wire in the race, finishing in three minutes, 29.622 seconds.

Van Koeverden, who was the Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony in Beijing, is a strong medal contender in the 1000. He won a bronze in this event at the 2004 Athens Games as well as three silvers (2003, 2005, 2007) at world championships.

He has been strong in this distance this season, winning two golds and one bronze in three World Cup races.

Ben Fouhy of New Zealand, who set the world record in this distance (3:24.495) in 2006, finished third in van Koeverden’s heat with a time of 3:33.037.

Van Koeverden’s main rivals in this distance won their heats, too. Briton Tim Brabants (3:27.828) took the first and Norwegian Eirik Veraas Larsen (3:29.043) won the third.

They will compete against van Koeverden in the final on Friday.


Bright future lies ahead for Canadian swimmers

Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, from Victoria, B.C., celebrates after taking the bronze medal in the men’s 1500-metre freestyle Sunday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

Canada’s swimmers leave Beijing with their first Olympic medal in eight years. And things are looking up for 2012.

What a difference a third-place finish can make.

Before teenager Ryan Cochrane swam to a surprise bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle on Sunday, the final day of competition at Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, opinion on the performance of the Canadian team had been divided.

Before Sunday, if you were to ask a set of Canadians for their thoughts on how their country’s swim team was faring at the Summer Olympics, you’d probably get a split answer: “Great job,” half would’ve said. “What a disappointment,” the rest would’ve grumbled.

Cochrane’s bronze — Canada’s first in Olympic swimming since 2000, and first in the gruelling 1,500 free since 1920 — swayed many observers from the glass-half-empty camp to the glass-half full side. But by some measures, Canadian swimmers were already enjoying a fine competition in China before the 19-year-old Victorian climbed the medal stand.

Plus, things are looking up for the future.

For those upset with Canada winning “only” one medal in Beijing, it’s instructive to note that, leading up to the Olympics, few observers expected much from the Canucks. Sports Illustrated, for example, predicted a shutout for Canada, while CBCSports.ca envisioned just a single medal: bronze in the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay.

That team ended up fifth, and Mike Brown of Perth, Ont., later narrowly missed the podium. Brown placed fourth in the men’s 200-metre breaststroke, an imperceptible 9-100ths of a second behind bronze medallist Hugues Duboscq of France.

“I gave it my best,” Brown, 24, told CBC Sports. “Winning a medal at the Olympic Games is one of the hardest things you can do. There are a lot of people in this world, and you’ve got to give respect to our athletes who are doing their best out here.”

‘We belong on this stage’

Partly because Brown and the relay team had the misfortune of racing when Canada’s Olympic team was still searching for its first medal, they were coloured by some as failures. But their performances weren’t much out of line with recent data: the relay squad was third at the most recent world championships, while Brown was seventh in the 200 back.

“It’s hard to beat [the Canadian team] up too much,” said CBC Swimming analyst Mark Tewksbury, a gold medallist in 1992 in Barcelona. “They’re not converting to medals, but they’re certainly not swimming badly.”

Indeed, solid performances were everywhere in Beijing, where Canadians broke 26 national records. That number is skewed by the fact that top times fell like autumn leaves at the Water Cube (the National Aquatics Center), where high-tech racing suits and an ultra-fast pool have conspired to all but erase the data in world record books.

A more trustworthy total is the 10 finals Canadian swimmers qualified for in Beijing, easily eclipsing the three reached at the 2004 Olympics.

“In Athens we were bystanders watching a great swim meet,” Brian Johns, a member of the fifth-place men’s relay team, told CBC Sports. “This time it’s an even better swim meet and we have people in the finals.

“Everybody’s racing, everybody’s competing, we’re having a great meet, and we’re showing that we belong on this stage.”

Right direction

That’s not to say there weren’t letdowns, most notably the failure of Mission, B.C.’s Brent Hayden to make the final of the 100-metre freestyle despite being the co-world champion in the event.

And while there’s plenty of work to do over the next four years, Canadian swimming appears to be pointed in the right direction for the 2012 London Games.

Julia Wilkinson, 21, of Stratford, Ont., figures to build on the three finals (200 IM, 4×100 free, 4×100 medley) she reached in her first Olympics. Other youngsters like Erica Morningstar, 19, of Regina, and Joel Greenshields, 20, of Airdrie, Alta., have shown potential.

And Cochrane is already an Olympic medallist at 19, with plenty of time for improvement.

“We’ve had Canadian records across the board,” Swimming Canada boss Pierre Lafontaine told the Canadian Press.

“If you are saying that’s not improvement, then I don’t know what you are talking about. When you break Canadian records, there is improvement.”


Gold-medal redemption for Canadian men's eight

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

The men’s eight rowing team finished the job they started four years ago by winning a gold medal on Sunday.

Canada led wire-to-wire in the final race at Beijing’s Shunyi Olympic rowing park. Taking the silver was Great Britain and taking the bronze was the U.S.

Canada finished in a time of five minutes, 23.89 seconds.

“We never stopped, we just kept on pushing, every stroke,” said coxswain Brian Price.

The reigning world champions were seeking redemption for their crushing defeat in Athens in 2004, when they entered as medal favourites and finished fifth.

“In Athens, it was a very hard-fought race. It was one where we were behind, and we had to fight back. Here we dominated, and that is such a testament to what a great crew this was,” said Jake Wetzel.

Since their disaster in Athens, the crew has toiled under the single-minded focus of winning in Beijing.

“Gold medals are awarded in the summer, but they’re earned in the winter. That was four years of hard winters,” said Kyle Hamilton.

The eight have not lost a race over the past two years. They also dominated their opening heat Monday in Beijing, opening up a full boat-length lead at the halfway mark of the 2,000-metre race before cruising to a seven-second victory.

Canada’s semifinal time of five minutes, 27.69 seconds advanced it straight to the final.

“It’s been a long week since we had our heat, and then just such a build-up to sit around all day, and then for that five minutes – flat out. It was just an incredible experience,” said Wetzel.

The men’s team consists of Ben Rutledge of Cranbrook, B.C., Kevin Light of Sidney, B.C., Malcolm Howard of Victoria, Andrew Byrnes of Toronto, Wetzel of Saskatoon, Dominic Seiterle of Victoria, Adam Kreek of London, Ont., and Hamilton of Richmond, B.C.

Women’s eight

The Canadian women’s eight finished fourth in their final race on Sunday, in a time of six minutes, 8.04 seconds.

The women almost clinched the bronze, but were overtaken by the Netherlands just before the finish line.

The Netherlands surged to take the silver, while the Americans took the gold and Romania took bronze.


Gold-medal redemption for Canadian men’s eight

CBC Sports @ CBC.CA

The men’s eight rowing team finished the job they started four years ago by winning a gold medal on Sunday.

Canada led wire-to-wire in the final race at Beijing’s Shunyi Olympic rowing park. Taking the silver was Great Britain and taking the bronze was the U.S.

Canada finished in a time of five minutes, 23.89 seconds.

“We never stopped, we just kept on pushing, every stroke,” said coxswain Brian Price.

The reigning world champions were seeking redemption for their crushing defeat in Athens in 2004, when they entered as medal favourites and finished fifth.

“In Athens, it was a very hard-fought race. It was one where we were behind, and we had to fight back. Here we dominated, and that is such a testament to what a great crew this was,” said Jake Wetzel.

Since their disaster in Athens, the crew has toiled under the single-minded focus of winning in Beijing.

“Gold medals are awarded in the summer, but they’re earned in the winter. That was four years of hard winters,” said Kyle Hamilton.

The eight have not lost a race over the past two years. They also dominated their opening heat Monday in Beijing, opening up a full boat-length lead at the halfway mark of the 2,000-metre race before cruising to a seven-second victory.

Canada’s semifinal time of five minutes, 27.69 seconds advanced it straight to the final.

“It’s been a long week since we had our heat, and then just such a build-up to sit around all day, and then for that five minutes – flat out. It was just an incredible experience,” said Wetzel.

The men’s team consists of Ben Rutledge of Cranbrook, B.C., Kevin Light of Sidney, B.C., Malcolm Howard of Victoria, Andrew Byrnes of Toronto, Wetzel of Saskatoon, Dominic Seiterle of Victoria, Adam Kreek of London, Ont., and Hamilton of Richmond, B.C.

Women’s eight

The Canadian women’s eight finished fourth in their final race on Sunday, in a time of six minutes, 8.04 seconds.

The women almost clinched the bronze, but were overtaken by the Netherlands just before the finish line.

The Netherlands surged to take the silver, while the Americans took the gold and Romania took bronze.