When Brent Hayden became the only Canadian man to take a 100-metre Olympic freestyle medal, it ended not only a personal hard-luck string but 52 years of waiting and wondering by Dick Pound. Pound, the previous Canadian to swim a 100-metre Olympic final, came sixth in the final at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Since then, he had seen Canadians fail time and again to be in the gold medal race. That’s until Hayden qualified for the marquee race, where his brilliant 47.80-second swim earned Canada a bronze, presented to him by Pound.
“It was a great moment for him, especially after his disappointment in Beijing. Also a great moment for me to present a well-deserved medal to a well-deserving Canadian athlete,” Pound said in an e-mail message.
“As for the 52-year drought. … I have no regrets whatsoever that the monkey is off my back. We still need to concentrate on getting freestylers in the sprint category, with events at 50, 100, 200, 4x100, 4x200 and 400 medley relays, if we ever hope to become a swimming power.”
Hayden, from Mission, B.C., had been to two Olympics before, been a Commonwealth gold medalist and the world’s top-ranked freestyler, but never had he made it to an Olympic final. He’d been at the Games in Athens in 2004, where the team essentially mutinied against former national coach Dave Johnson. If the mood on the team wasn’t unsettling enough, Hayden and other athletes were exiting a pub when they got caught up in a student protest. Police beat him with batons and he suffered an elbow injury that forced him to miss the world championships that year.
In 2008 in Beijing, he could swim quickly enough for a medal but missed the Olympic final trying to conserve energy for a relay.
In 2009, he entered the world championships as the fastest swimmer but finished fourth after opting to swim without the sleek bodysuits that have since been banned.
But in 2010 he won the Commonwealth Games and took over the world’s top ranking, and in 2011 he won silver at the worlds.