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1997 Canada Games - Day 2


Katharine Dunn

The men's 100 free was swept by BC swimmers Graham Duthie and Robert Pettifer. It was one heck of a summer for Graham Duthie.

After a stellar rookie season at Simon Fraser University (SFU), the sprinter should have easily made the Canada Games team. But things didn't go as planned.

"I was in a car accident six weeks out of nationals. A guy ran a stop sign at 70 km/hr and my car was a write-off," said Duthie. "They figured the airbag saved my life. I missed three weeks of swimming and had a rough nationals. I made the Canada Games in a desperation swim on the last night."

It's lucky for Team BC that he did make it. Duthie won medals in every race he swam in Brandon: gold in 100 free and 4x200 free relay; silver in 4x50 free, 4x100 free, and 4x100 M.R..

These recent victories may be a natural progression for the 19-year-old swimmer who swept the 50, 100, and 200 free in the NAIA conference last season, making him NAIA swimmer of the year.

But there wasn't only a car accident setting him back. Duthie's coach, Liam Donnelly, was involved in a sexual harassment scandal at SFU that nearly cost him his job and left him suspended for most of the summer. Duthie, "left scrambling" without a coach, relocated to Edmonton where he trained with his old club in the weeks leading up to nationals.

"It was a really rough summer," he said. "It was mentally really tough." Finishing the summer with Canada Games medals helped put Duthie back on track so he can focus on his second year at SFU.

"It's a mental boost winning two golds," he said. "Now I'm better prepared and mentally definitely tougher."

Another of the day's standout swimmers was 13-year-old Melissa Dyson of Alberta. Despite her age, and the fact that she was entered last going in the 100 breast final, Dyson displayed the confidence of a much more experienced swimmer. It was no surprise that Dyson placed second in the event, in 1:13.31, to Quebec's Lucy Mae Smith who swam 1:12.50. "I was mainly trying to stay focussed and think about racing and having fun," said Dyson after her swim.

Jason Flint (ON) bettered the mens 100 breaststroke record with a time of 1:04.64. The previous record was 1:05.20 held by Jean Nicolas Poirier (QC) set in1993.



Profile: Philippe Gagnon

He may be classified as a disabled swimmer, but in the water Philippe Gagnon displays anything but dis-ability. Gagnon left the Canada Games with two world records, three Canadian records, four golds and a silver.

"I came to the meet thinking I could get a world record," said the confident 17-year-old after the 100 free. "I think I can do it in the 50 free, too!" (And he did).

Gagnon smashed world records in both the 50 and 100 free. His time of 55.21 in the 100 was more than two seconds faster than the old record, and his swim would have placed him 11th overall in the men's able-bodied event.

In Canadian competition, disabled swimmers often all race in the same heat regardless of their disability classifications. That's simply because there aren't enough athletes in each class to fill a separate heat. Event winners are awarded based on points earned on the SWAD world performance charts. So Gagnon, whose class 10 disability level means he has the most functional ability (he was born with deformed feet and his left foot has minimal mobility), raced against swimmers of mostly lower disability classes in Brandon. But the lack of competition in the sprint-free events doesn't bother Gagnon.

"With more competition I would swim faster," he said, "but I push myself to the maximum and I'm used to swimming alone. With the TVs and newspapers here, it's fun. They give me energy. It's great."

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