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Swimming - 25. July 2007.

Eyes on the Prize!, Pan Am Games at long last.

Synchro Canada’s National A Team has arrived safely in Brazil, and SC National Programs Coordinator Kristen Brawley reports that “our athletes looked sharp in their first practice despite a long flight and not much rest.”

It’s definitely time to look sharp now that the Synchronized Swimming portion of the 2007 Pan American Games finally gets under way this week, beginning with the Duet Technical Routines this Wednesday July 25th, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

There is a lot more on the line than a Gold Medal.

For the first time ever, the Pan American Games will serve as a pre-qualifier for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, with the Canadian and American Synchro Teams expected to battle it out for the top spot and the coveted Olympic berth: and Canada has a great shot of bringing home the Gold!

This means that for both the Team and Duet events, the first place finisher will automatically qualify for the 2008 Olympics, while the other teams will have to qualify later on in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

The last time Synchro Canada’s National A Team competed against the Americans was at the 2007 FINA World Aquatic Championships in February, where the Americans edged us out by less than one point in Team competition, and only four tenths of a point in the Duet category.

Since then our athletes have been training tirelessly, have increased the technical difficulty of their routine, and have set their sights firmly on the top of the podium and an early reservation for a spot in Beijing for 2008.

Team Captain Marie-Pierre Gagné is leading the charge both in and out of the water with her positive attitude, she says “I feel that because we swam pretty well at worlds and it was kind of equal [with the Americans], we thought that if we made it a little more difficult, added some speed, and swim just as well that it might give us the step-up.”

And that is exactly what they have done as they demonstrated in their spectacular performance at their own Pan Am send-off Watershow at the Parc Olympique Pool in Montreal. In fact, Synchro Canada’s A Team has had the fortunate opportunity to perform not only in Canada but in two additional preparatory Watershows in Puerto Rico, where they held a camp last month in order to simulate an environment comparable to that of Brazil.

Like the Team, Synchro Canada’s Duet of Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Isabelle Rampling are also looking to book their tickets to the 2008 Olympics. They received a taste of first place at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and are longing for more. As Canada’s Duet, they also intend to overcome the very tight four-tenths of a point deficit that gave the American Duet the slight edge at the 2007 FINA Worlds, and add another Gold to Canada’s ever-growing Medal count.

Head Coach Isabelle Taillon is “thrilled by the progress the Team has made over the last several months,” and feels that “the Watershows have really helped the athletes fine-tune their performances as well as prepared them for the spotlight in Rio.”

Synchro Canada’s 2007 Pan American Team consists of Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon, Jessika Dubuc, Marie-Pierre Gagné, Dominika Kopcik, Eve Lamoureux, Tracy Little, Tanya Matson (Alternate), Elise Marcotte, Isabelle Rampling and Jennifer Song. Our coaching staff consists of Head Coach Isabelle Taillon, Assistant Coaches Karine Doré and Denise Sauvé, as well as Interim Team Manager Jennifer Defoy [replacing Team Manager Josée Dagenais, who is away on maternity leave.]

The Canadian contingent also includes Dot Padget— Canadian Judge, Leslie Sproule— Head of Delegation, Kristen Brawley— Team Leader, Maria Maximova— Choreographer, and Pierre Joly— Team Physiotherapist and COC Medical Mission Staff.

Finally, how close is the rivalry with our Southern neighbours? In the first half of last week Synchro Canada’s National Junior Team swept the Gold Medals from the US Open, while in the latter portion of the week the US Team slightly bettered our National B Team by less than a point in both the Team and Combo Competitions. Soloist Allison McKenny beat-out the American swimmer for the Bronze Medal.

The Pan Am Games must be the tie-breaker.

Our athletes can do it! Go Canada Go!

As Brazil is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time, and all of the Synchro events are slated between 10:00 am and 11:30am, look for Synchro results in the early afternoon.

Please visit www.synchro.ca beginning July 25th through the 28th for daily updates.

For more detailed results please visit: http://www.rio2007.org.br/data/pages/8CA3C784139C20FF01139C2C41550F77.htm.

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