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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ten Canadians with a chance

World-class athletes could climb podium at London Games

Posted: 07/25/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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LONDON -- A look at 10 Canadian athletes to watch at the 2012 London Olympics:

ADAM VAN KOEVERDEN -- The veteran paddler has an Olympic medal of every colour and he'll be gunning to add to his collection in London. Van Koeverden, who served as Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies in 2008, should be a contender in the K1 1,000-metre event. The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., won a world title at that distance last year in Hungary.

DYLAN ARMSTRONG -- The 31-year-old shot putter from Kamloops, B.C., is hoping to erase the painful memory of coming less than a centimetre short of a medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Armstrong was ranked No. 1 in the world last season but battled injuries over the winter. He didn't qualify for the world indoor final last March but has looked solid in the lead-up to London, consistently performing well on the Diamond League circuit.

ALEXANDRE DESPATIE -- This will be the fourth Summer Games for the 27-year-old diver from Laval, Que. He has won silver in the men's three-metre springboard at the last two Games, but his preparation took a major blow in mid-June when he hit his head on the diving board while training in Spain.

SIMON WHITFIELD -- The 2000 Olympic triathlon champion is still going strong at age 37. After winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, Whitfield struggled at the 2004 Games in Athens before bouncing back with a silver medal four years later in Beijing. The Victoria resident, who will carry Canada's flag at Friday's opening ceremony, has ramped up his training regimen this year in an effort to hang with the youngsters on the Olympic course in London.

MILOS RAONIC -- Expect to hear some oohs and aahs when Raonic steps on court at the All-England Club. He has a rocket of a serve and the game to back it up. Raonic has posted victories over some of the game's top players this season. The 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., could make a splash at the home of Wimbledon.

RYAN COCHRANE -- Cochrane is one of the best bets for a podium appearance among Canadian swimmers. The 23-year-old from Victoria, who won bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle four years ago, will compete in the 1,500 and 400-metre freestyle events in London. Cochrane holds national records at both distances.

CATHARINE PENDREL -- The 31-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., heads to the London Games ranked No. 1 in the world in women's mountain biking. She just missed the podium four years ago, finishing fourth at the Beijing Olympics. The spotlight was on veteran teammate Marie-Helene Premont back then, but Pendrel can't fly under the radar this time. As the reigning world champion, she's favoured for gold.

KAREN COCKBURN -- The trampoline veteran has reached the podium at every Olympics since the event was added to the program at the Sydney Games in 2000. The 31-year-old Toronto native is hoping her fourth Games will bring her that elusive gold medal. Cockburn is known for her strong flight times, which could give her a slight edge in London, since the height of the jumps will now be factored into the overall score.

CLARA HUGHES -- She's pushing 40 and showing no signs of slowing down. Hughes, who has reached the speedskating podium at the last three Winter Games, will be back on the bike in London. It's her first appearance at the Summer Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000. The rider from Glen Sutton, Que., won two bronze in road cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

MARY SPENCER -- Spencer, a three-time world boxing champion, suffered her first defeat in more than a year in April and a month later had an upset loss in her first bout at the world championships. The 27-year-old native of Wiarton, Ont., qualified for London as a wild-card entry. She hopes to return to the form that saw her win gold at the Pan-Am Games last fall.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2012 D4

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