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(Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS)
(Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS)

JAMES CHRISTIE

Weekend roundup: Canada starts strongly in Olympic water polo quest Add to ...

The Canadian women’s water polo squad can’t afford to look past Monday when it plays its second match of the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Trieste, Italy.

Canada started the nine-team tournament Sunday night with a 15-4 confidence-building win over Kazakhstan, shutting out the world No. 13-ranked opponent in the second half. But Canada’s foe Monday is the defending Olympic champion from the Netherlands. Tuesday, it’s top-ranked Greece – and the memory that the Canada’s men’s team was knocked out of the Olympic pool by Greece last week.

“This was a good game for the team and the start we wanted to the tournament,” Canada head coach Patrick Oaten said. “We did start off the game a little slow, but the athletes focused on the game plan and kept the pressure on. The second half showed our attention to detail and offensive skills.”

The Canadians next opponent, the Netherlands, is rated just above Canada at No. 7 in the world. Canada needs to send a message that it belongs back in the Olympics, after failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and coming up short in previous bids to earn a place in the London Olympics, including an overtime loss to the United States in the Pan American Games gold-medal game. Canada needs a top-four finish in Trieste to advance to the London Games this summer.

Christine Robinson of Lachine, Que., paced the Canadian attack with four goals Sunday. Monika Eggens of Maple Ridge, B.C., Katrina Monton of Dorval, Que., Marina Radu of Pointe-Claire, Que., and Emily Csikos of Calgary each added two. Krystina Alogbo of Rivières-des-Prairies, Que., Tara Campbell of Baie-Durfé, Que., and Joëlle Békhazi of Pointe-Claire scored once each. Rachel Riddell of Victoria was the Canadian goaltender.

Canada is grouped with Greece, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Brazil in the B pool. The A pool has a strong and competitive selection of Russia, Italy, Hungary and Spain. The top four in each group advance to the quarter-finals this weekend. Winning that crossover game dictates whether Canada gets to London.

“Not qualifying for the 2008 Olympics was a huge disappointment, but it was also a powerful motivator,” Oaten said.

Four countries have already qualified for the Olympics: Britain (host), China, the United States and Australia, which won respective regional qualifiers.

The Canadian women’s water polo squad hasn’t won a medal since a women’s tournament was included in 2000. Canada’s women placed fifth at Sydney, the best result they’ve had. Canadian women also won the 1981 World Cup tournament in Brisbane, Australia.

CYCLING

Canadian mountain biker Catharine Pendrel, the defending world champion who won the Olympic test event in Essex, England, last year, cranked to victory in the second World Cup race of 2012, in Houffalize, Belgium.

Pendrel of Kamloops mastered the 24.44-kilometre course in 1 hour 31 minutes 15 seconds for a 45-second win over Julie Bresset of France. Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont., was seventh and Marie-Hélène Prémont of Chateau Richer, Que., 14th.

In the men’s World Cup race, Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, B.C., finished in 11th spot. It is his top result this season.

In professional road cycling, the Canadian-based SpiderTech squad enjoyed its first victory in a European circuit race this season with Ryan Roth of Cambridge, Ont., winning the Tro-Bro Léon event in France.

Sprinter Guillaume Boivin of Longueil, Que., came in third. He’s appeared regularly in the top 10 on European roads.

MARATHON

At Rotterdam, the Netherlands, some of the world leading times in the marathon were run on the weekend despite stiff winds. Yemane Adhane of Ethiopia won in an unofficial 2:04:48 seconds, powering away from countryman Getu Feleke in the final 500 metres.

In the streets of Paris, Stanley Biwott of Kenya and Beyene Tirfi of Ethiopia overcame swirling winds and chilly conditions to set Paris marathon record times. Biwott won in 2:05:11 despite a wind in his face for the first 10 kilometres. Tirfi dominated the women’s race in 2:21:39.

At Milan, Italy, Kenyans dominated the Barclays marathon in the rain. Daniel Kiprugat Too ran 2:08:39 while Irene Jerotich Kosgei was the top woman at 2:31:07.

This week, two major world marathons are scheduled at Boston and London. The Toronto Yonge Street 10K goes next Sunday, with Canada’s 2:10:55 marathoner Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton warming up for the London Games.

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