Ahead of his final Olympic Games, Canadian sprint swimmer Brent Hayden had already earned almost every honour in the sport. A world champion, A Canadian record holder and Commonwealth Games champion, Hayden had just one gap in his trophy case.
Hayden, of Mission, B.C., captured the first Olympic medal of his career on Wednesday evening, swimming a 47.80-second race to earn bronze in the men’s 100-metre freestyle.
“It’s just amazing right now,” Hayden said, after his race. “With 23 metres left to go right when it started to hurt, I just told myself: ‘Brent, this could be your last hundred metre freestyle ever. Jsut go for it man, just go.’”
Hayden got a great start off the blocks, and was in contention from start to finish of the race. By the time he reached the wall, he was just 0.32 seconds out of the gold-medal spot.
American Nathan Adrian took the coveted medal in 47.52s while Australia’s James Magnussen, heavily favoured to win after swimming the world’s fastest time of 47.10 in March, touched the wall a heartbreaking hundredth-of-a-second behind.
“I think in the semi-final I think I took one too many strokes and I think I came up short on the reach,” Hayden said. “So it was a long glide that got me the silver medal last year at the world championships, so I figured if it worked for me once before, it could work again.”
The podium finish was a big relief for Hayden, who was the favourite at the 2008 Olympic Games before he failed to qualify to the final. Now 28, Hayden believes he went into that race with an overconfident attitude.
“I think at the Beijing Olympics I was a little too egotistical, I guess,” he said. “Kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m Brent Hayden, I won gold at the world championships last year.’
“Missing that final in Beijing, seeing that a time that I’d already done in the meet was already good for bronze, I couldn’t hold anything back in this.”
The newly minted Olympic medallist is in for a memorable month; his wedding date is set for August 19th — just one week after the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
He has called his fiancée, Nadina Zarifeh, his muse in the pool and credits her with inspiring him to dig deep in his racing.
“She’s my lucky charm,” Hayden said, with a tired smile.
Way to go, Brent!! The whole country is proud of you!!