Canadians Jump Into Beijing 2008

Kyle Shewfelt’s courageous comeback attempt fell just short and Canada was shut out of the medals on the first day of full competition at the Beijing Olympics.

In his first international competition since breaking both legs and tearing ligaments, Shewfelt missed out on the chance to defend his gold medal in the floor routine by failing to qualify for the finals.

The top eight advanced and Shewfelt was left with tears in his eyes after placing 11th on Saturday. Despite the result, he was still proud of himself.

“The past 11 months for me have been hard and the biggest challenge of my life,” said Shewfelt. “It felt phenomenal to be out there competing because I know I worked my ass off to earn my spot on that team. It’s been my everything for 11 months.”

His Olympics are now done because the Canadian men’s team finished ninth and missed qualifying for the team final by one spot.

While Shewfelt won’t be able to duplicate his Olympic heroics, the women’s soccer team increased its chance to provide Canada with some hardware.

The Canadians overcame the heat and humidity and stifling noise of the pro-Chinese crowd to battle the hosts to a 1-1 draw.

“Playing that well, with the crowd behind China, quieting them. . . it’s a great feeling,” Canada’s captain Christine Sinclair said after the game.

Sinclair scored the lone goal for Canada at Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium, to give Canada a 1-0-1 record in their women’s Olympic soccer debut. China is also at 1-0-1, tied with Canada atop Group E. The Chinese Steel Roses responded when Xu Yuan beat Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, firing a hard, low shot to the left corner.

Canadian coach Even Pellerud was pleased with his players’ efforts, but said a win would have been a just result for his team that dominated most of the night. “They seemed very unaffected by (the crowd), they seemed to feed off the energy in the stands and it didn’t bother them at all,” he said. “I think this was one of the better performances I have seen from a focused effort, from tactical discipline, from goal-scoring chances, consistency and also we seemed to be by far the fitter team out there and that surprised me a little bit.”

It was a mixed day for Canada in the pool, where two swimmers broke Canadian records but only one advanced past the qualifying stage.

Brian Johns of Richmond, B.C., shaved over three seconds off the Canadian record to qualify for the final in the 400-metre individual medley.

“I just really wanted to show this team is here to compete,” said Johns, who was timed in four minutes 11.41 seconds. “We’re going to come out here with undying Canadian pride and honour. We’re just going to throw it down. “If people perform the way they know how to, we’re going to swim really fast. We’re going to compete really hard and we’re going to have good results because of it.”

Johns was the first Canadian to race in the noisy National Aquatics Centre, or Water Cube. He was the seventh fastest swimmer heading to the eight-man final. His time broke Curtis Myden’s record swim of 4:15.33, which was good enough for a bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team of Julia Wilkinson, Erica Morningstar, Genevieve Saumur and Audrey Lacroix also qualified for the final.

Ryan Cochrane of Victoria set a Canadian record but missed qualifying for the 400-metre freestyle final by just .03 seconds. Mike Brown of Perth, Ont., swam a personal best in the 100-metre breaststroke but failed to move into the semifinals.

Still, it was a dramatic turnaround from the first day of swimming at the Athens Olympics, when no Canadian qualified for a final and most struggled to come anywhere near a personal best.

In other Canadian action on Saturday:

Dave Calder of Victoria and Scott Frandsen of Kelowna, B.C., advanced to the men’s pair semifinals at the rowing regatta by finishing third in their heat. In the women’s pair heats, Edmonton’s Zoe Hoskins and Sabrina Kolker of West Vancouver, B.C., finished fifth and were relegated to the repechage.

Michael Barry of Toronto fought through the smog to finish ninth in the gruelling 245.4-kilometre men’s road race. The finish was a career-best for the three-time Olympian, who was 64th at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and 32nd in Athens. Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, who recently competed in the Tour de France, was 56th while Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C., was 59th.

Calgary’s Nathan Gafuik and Adam Wong each provided a silver lining for the gymnastics team by qualifying for Thursday’s all-around competition. Gafuik was 20th while Wong was 24th.

Canadian sailors had a strong opening day on the water. Jennifer Provan and Martha Henderson, both of Toronto, and Katie Abbott of Sarnia, Ont., are second overall in the women’s Yngling after finishing fifth and fourth in the first of 10 races. Christopher Cook of Toronto is fourth overall in the men’s Finn competition thanks to eighth and third place finishes in the first of 10 races.

Anna Rice of North Vancouver, B.C., won her first-round badminton match, 21-15, 19-21, 21-19 over American Eva Lee. She faces Switzerland’s Jeannine Cicognini in the round of 32.

Montreal judoka Frazer Will lost his first-round bout to world champion Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands in the 60-kg class. Frazer is the shortest male competitor at four-foot-nine and the Dutchman is a full foot taller than him.

“He’s very tall with long arms and I was on the defensive too much,” said Will. “I felt OK out there, but it was a tough fight because he’s the world champion.”

Fraser then made it to the semifinal of the repechage but lost to Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan. A win would have given Fraser a shot at a bronze medal.

Marilou Dozois-Prevost of Montreal was 10th in women’s 48-kilogram weightlifting.

Fencer Olga Ovtchinnikova of Toronto advanced to the round of 16 in the women’s individual sabre before getting eliminated. Sandra Sassine of Laval, Que., lost in the round of 32 while Julie Cloutier of Repentigny, Que., was knocked out in the round of 64.

Giuseppe Di Salvatore of Surrey, B.C., was 28th after the first day of men’s trap shooting qualification with 66 targets hit. The last two qualification rounds and finals are set for Sunday.

Canada sat 10th among the teams with a score of 123.70 after the dressage portion of evening competition. In the individual competition, Sandra Donnelly was 21st at 60.20 while fellow Calgarian Kyle Carter was 23rd at 63.50.

Marie-Pier Beaudet of Levis, Que., was 34th with a score of 628 after the opening day of the women’s archery competition.

Crispin Duenas of Toronto had a score of 664 and was tied for 15th place after the ranking round of men’s archery. Jay Lyon of Winnipeg was tied for 46th (646) and John David Burnes of Toronto stood 50th (644). The three archers were 11th after the ranking round of the team competition with a score of 1,954.