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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hard-luck Canucks DQ'd

Stripped of relay bronze after runner steps into wrong lane

Posted: 08/12/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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LONDON -- The Canadian 4x100 relay team sat on the track in disbelief with tears streaming down their faces.

In a Games where Canada has had its share of hard luck, this was perhaps the cruelest cut of all.

When Justyn Warner appeared to cross the finish line just in front of the runner from Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, it looked like Canada's sprinters had won bronze in one of the Games' marquee events. The scoreboard confirmed a third-place finish, and the Canadians started to celebrate.

But it was short-lived. A lane violation and subsequent disqualification cost the Canadians a medal and left the team devastated.

"We ran a great race and we did everything," Warner said. "This is unfortunate. It sucks. Everyone dreams about getting a medal and we have just had one taken away. It's not any of our faults and we are proud of what we did. We had the job done."

Unlike the now famous officiating controversy in Canada's women's soccer semifinal against the U.S., this was a clear violation of the rules. Jared Connaughton, Canada's third runner, stepped on the border of his lane as he was entering a turn prior to handing off the baton to Warner for the anchor leg.

While the violation didn't give Connaughton a competitive advantage, it was enough to disqualify the Canadians and void their third-place time of 38.07 seconds. The Canadians filed an appeal but it was rejected.

Connaughton was devastated and apologized for the error on Twitter.

"I'm so sorry everyone," he tweeted. "My heart is broken. I let my team down. I'm sorry."

The Jamaicans, anchored by Usain Bolt, won the thrilling race in a world-record time of 36.84 seconds. The United States was second in 37.04 seconds.

Trinidad and Tobago moved into the bronze-medal position with a time of 38.12 seconds.

The result would have given Canada 19 medals, one better than its total from the Beijing Olympics four years ago. With 18 medals, Canada remained right on its target of finishing 12th in the overall medal standings.

Earlier Saturday, Halifax kayaker Mark de Jonge won bronze in the men's K-1 200-metre race.

"I gave everything," de Jonge said. "I ended up kind of dying a little at the end but that's to be expected when you go all out."

Meanwhile, the latest hope for an elusive gold medal evaporated when Catharine Pendrel finished a disappointing ninth in women's mountain bike. The two-time world champion based in Kamloops, B.C. was considered a strong contender to win the race.

Pendrel was in the top three early in the race but started to fade late in the second lap.

"I've never gone backwards in a race like that before," Pendrel said. "Usually I'm going forward, I'm attacking and aggressive.

"I just never found my rhythm."

This has been dubbed Canada's "Bronze Olympics" by some. While Canada's medal output has generally fallen in line with the goals set out by the Canadian Olympic Committee before the Games, there has been a lack of gold and silver medals compared to past Olympics.

Canada has won at least three golds at every Summer Games it participated in since coming up empty as the host nation at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Canada won 10 gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games that was boycotted by Eastern Bloc countries, and seven in Barcelona in 1992.

Canada had three gold, nine silver and six bronze medals in Beijing after going the first seven days without any hardware. So far this year, Canada has one gold, five silver and 12 bronze -- the most bronze in a non-boycotted Games.

Canada's latest bronze came when de Jonge finished third behind Britain's Ed McKeever and Spain's Saul Craviotto in the K-1 200-metre final.

The result ended a long journey for the 28-year-old. An injury-plagued 2008 saw de Jonge miss the Beijing Games and nearly leave the sport entirely to concentrate on his engineering career.

But after the 200 sprint was introduced for London, de Jonge decided to take another run at the podium.

It paid off. His time of 36.657 seconds trailed only McKeever, a former world champion known as "the Usain Bolt of the water," who won in 36.246, and Craviotto in 36.540.

De Jonge, who owns an unofficial world best time of 33.804, couldn't keep up with McKeever.

"I think the second half suffered a little," said de Jonge. "I had a lot of fatigue in the second half but I just hung on and hoped for the best, shot my boat across the line and just waited for the results."

Pendrel was out of contention half way through her race. It was a head-scratching result from the 31-year-old originally from Harvey Station, N.B., who won the test event here and has three World Cup victories this year.

"Definitely not what I expected today, not what I hoped for, not what I prepared for," she said. "I felt so exceptional yesterday and today I just didn't have it."

Julie Bresset of France dominated the second half of the race and won gold with a time of one hour 30 minutes 52 seconds. Germany's Sabine Spitz was over a minute behind in second place (1:31:54) and American Georgia Gould won bronze (1:32:00).

Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont., was 24th in 1:40:37. Batty raced despite suffering a fractured right clavicle in a training crash last Tuesday.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2012 B4

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