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Canada's hopes in the pool rest on experienced shoulders

Athens was a washout. Beijing was a swim in the right direction. What happens next for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics depends on one thing: How well its veterans compete in the pool.

While the Canadian swim team has several promising young athletes, its medal contenders come from a core group that has been to multiple big meets, including the last two Summer Games.

Leading the way will be Ryan Cochrane, the 22-year-old freestyler who won bronze in the 2008 Olympic 1,500 metres. Cochrane has grown into a world-class competitor who also swims the 800 and expects to be on the podium. His work ethic and training tactics will challenge Sun Yang of China.

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Brent Hayden, 27, is a former world champion and world record-holder in the 100 freestyle. Although he didn't make the 100 final in Beijing, he was fourth at the 2009 world aquatic championships and won double gold at last year's Commonwealth Games. He even beat aqua-man Michael Phelps in the 100 at a U.S. Grand Prix event two years ago.

Canada's other two individual medal hopes are Annamay Pierse and Mike Brown.

Pierse is a world record-holder in the 200 breaststroke and placed sixth in Beijing. Brown placed fourth in the 200 breaststroke, a mere 9/100ths of a second shy of a bronze medal in China, then retired. He resumed his swim career last summer, and is hoping to peak for London.

The experienced swimmers will also be responsible for powering the men's and women's relay teams.

"We're always looking to be better than we were at the last Olympics," Swimming Canada chief executive officer Pierre Lafontaine said. "We've got a lot of 19- to 21-year-olds, but it takes time to develop them at the world level."

In Beijing, Canada won one medal and had 10 finalists while setting 26 national records and 30 personal bests. Bettering that in London will be difficult but not impossible.

It's up to the leaders to lead.

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