Canadian swimmers enter The Twilight Zone at London Olympic Games

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It says something about the wacky nature of the Olympics when Canada's best result in the pool so far is a seventh place turned in by the swim team's youngest member.

After three days the swim meet at the London Olympics has been like an episode of The Twilight Zone for Canada's swimmers.

Julia Wilkinson had a religious experience in the 100-metre backstroke heats.

"I think I saw God in the last 20 metres,'' the 25-year-old from Stratford, Ont., told Allan Maki of The Globe and Mail. "He was signing The Final Countdown.''

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Cue Rod Serling. Bring up the music.

Tera Van Beilen's first Olympic experience was so much fun she got to do it twice. She finished tied with Jamaica's 's Alia Atkinson in the 100-metre breaststroke heats, then had to compete in a swim-off after the evening's other events had ended.

Had that ever happened to her before?

"Once, when I was 12 years old,'' said Van Beilen of Oakville, Ont.

Atkinson won the race to advance to the final.

"It was mentally hard coming off a race knowing you had to do it again,'' said Van Beilen. "I tried to get set mentally.

"It was fun. At least I got another race."

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The first Canadian swimmer to actually advance to a final was 18-year-old Brittany MacLean of Toronto.

MacLean set a Canadian record in the 400-metre heats. She finished seventh in the final where she swam against world-record holder Federica Pellegrini of Italy, defending Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington of Britain and the new Olympic champ, Camille Muffat of France.

"I knew I was in a really tough field and I knew it was going to be a bit of a battle the whole way through," said MacLean, who suffered a shoulder injury at age 13 which nagged her for several seasons.

"I wasn't completely successful with staying with the pack as I wanted. I ended up out-touching one person. I'll take seventh place at the Olympics."

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Prior to Wilkinson seeing God she came face to face with a toilet. She admitted an attack of nerves before swimming in the heats.

"I threw up. In the toilet, not in the ready room, so point for me," she said.

Wilkinson and Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., both swam in the 100 back semifinals but neither advanced to Monday's final. Wilkinson finished ninth, just .09 of a second shy from qualifying. Russell was 16th.

"I did everything I could," said Wilkinson. "Ninth is horrible. It's so close.''

It was a case of good news, bad news for Blake Worsley of Victoria. The good news was he won his heat in the 200 metre freestyle. The bad news is his time wasn't good enough to advance to the semifinal.

The tone was set for the weekend on Saturday when Victoria's Ryan Cochrane thought he had the eighth fastest time to qualify for the 400-metre freestyle final. But South Korea's Park Tae-hwan appealed his disqualification for a false start in his heat. An International Swimming Federation investigation overturned the decision putting Park back in the final and leaving Cochrane on the sidelines.

Park would go on to win the silver medal.

"That's just the way the Olympics are," said Randy Bennett, the swim team's head coach.


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