Brittany MacLean becomes Canada’s first future Olympic star with seventh in 400 free

Not bad for an Olympic first-timer.

Brittany MacLean, who's barely removed from writing her high school finals, reached a stepping-stone just by making a final at the London Aquatic Centre on final. In doing so, the 18-year-old Etobicoke, Ont., native might have marked herself as a future contender for Canada.

For Swimming Canada, just getting more of its young swimmers into finals at London 2012 is an important benchmark as far as converting junior success to Olympic success — long a stumbling block for this country's amateur sport infrastructure — is concerned. MacLean, just by getting into the women's 400-metre freestyle final and placing seventh in 4:06.24, pulled off a minor coup. It will have to make Canada's day in the pool on account of Julia Wilkinson and Sinead Russell falling short of reaching the women's 100 m backstroke final. Tera Van Beilen, just 19 years old, also lost a swim-off for a berth in the 100 breaststroke final.

[Related: Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel win Canada's first medal]

By no means is that result a guarantee of a medal in Rio in 2016, when the University of Georgia-bound MacLean will be a much more mature 22-year-old. The point is that she clocked a much faster Canadian-record 4:05.06 in qualifying, taking more than a second off the time she swam while winning at the Canadian Olympic trials in Montreal in March.

The bottom line is it shows that there is potential on the Canadian team, particularly on the women's side. One wouldn't go so far to put MacLean on the same track as men's 1,500 free contender Ryan Cochrane, who in 2008 offered a harbinger of what's expected from him in London with a bronze medal at that distance. It is a good omen, at least, for MacLean, who will also represent Canada with her 19-year-old sister, Heather MacLean.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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