Defending 100m freestyle world champion Brent Hayden will be battling for gold in Beijing.
Athens in 2004 was supposed to be former UBC Thunderbird Brent Hayden’s coming out party. A rising star on the Canadian swim scene, he was poised to make his mark on the world stage.
As most people know, however, even the best laid plans can go awry.
The whole Canadian team struggled and failed to claim a single medal in the pool, with Hayden not even contesting the 100 metre freestyle, an event he won at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne.
Fast forward to 2008, and Hayden is once again seeking to make his mark on the biggest stage in the swimming world.
There can be no greater achievement for a Canadian swimmer than to earn a gold medal in the men’s 100 m freestyle at the Olympic Games.
“I’ve gotten little bit more experience this time around, and I think before Athens I was just kind of getting ready to go the Olympics,” said the 24-year-old Hayden. “This time I am getting ready to go and win medals, so my preparation is a little more serious but I’ve also had a few more obstacles to overcome.”
There are a number of obstacles Hayden will have to navigate if he wishes to translate his 2007 world title into Olympic gold.
For one, a sub-48-second 100 freestyle, a result that seemed fairly improbable one year ago, appears now to be the standard necessary to claim any medal in Beijing.
As it stands, Hayden’s Canadian record from his World Championships triumph of 48.43 must be erased by a significant margin if he is to earn gold.
Even with a Games appearance under his belt, the pressure and awe of the Olympic atmosphere can still be overwhelming.
And then there is Hayden’s back, with a bulging disc that has given him problems all year and forced him to pass on the 50 m freestyle at this year’s Olympic Trials.
Knowing all of this, Hayden has been able to maintain a level head and balanced approach.
“I am just looking at this one [the 100 freestyle in Beijing] as another race. I’m trying not to think about the pressure and expectations that people have of me because the pressure I have put on myself is enough,” said Hayden.