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Lochte cruises to pair of victories at Mel Zajac Jr.

May 26, 2013
Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte

Olympic champion Ryan Lochte was the teacher and Hassaan Abdel-Khalik was happy to be the pupil during Friday’s opening night of the Mel Zajac Jr. International Canada Cup.

Lochte cruised to victories in the 200-metre backstroke and the 200 freestyle before a loud crowd at the University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre.

Abdel-Khalik, who will compete at this summer’s World Championships in the relay, finished third in the freestyle but said racing against the 11-time Olympic medallist was a learning experience.

“I learned in the water and I learned out of the water,” said the 21-year-old from Mississauga, Ont.

“When you have a world-class swimmer like Lochte it’s good preparation for the worlds. Ryan is a pretty personable guy. We were talking. Sometimes that weirds people out. With Lochte, it’s a good back and forth.”

Lochte, who won the freestyle in a time of one minute 50.15 seconds, laughed when asked about being a role model.

“I think that’s awesome,” said the 28-year-old American. “I remember when I was in their shoes, looking up at the older guys.

“I’m still learning. Those kids looking up to me, if they want to ask me questions or anything like that, I’ll steer them in the right direction.”

Lochte, who is the star of his own reality TV show, was pleased with his backstroke time of 1:59.56 but thought he could have gone faster in the freestyle.

“I have a faster gear,” he said. “I just never went to it.

“The time was decent. The win was nice.”

Abdel-Khalik’s time in the freestyle was 1:52.56. He finished second behind Victoria’s Jeremy Bagshaw who was clocked in 1:51.34.

“The time might not have been fast but I was working on the details,” said Abdel-Khalik. “The time isn’t the target.

“It’s just a matter of nailing the small things.”

One meet record fell on opening night when Emily Brunemann of the United States won the women’s 1,500 metres in 16:27.99. That broke the old mark of 16:31.69 set last year by Savannah King of Vernon, B.C. King finished second 16:31.69.

Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., won the women’s 200-metre backstroke in 2:10.13, which allows her to swim the event at this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Russell had already qualified for the World Championship team in the 100 back.

Tera Van Beilen of Oakville, Ont., shook off having four wisdom teeth removed just over a week ago and won the 100-metre breaststroke in 1:09.81.

Swimming Canada officials watching the event also got a look at some future stars.

Luke Reilly, a 17-year-old from Richmond, B.C., won the 400-metre individual medley in 4:27.03 while Emily Overholt, a 15-year-old from Vancouver, touched the wall first in the women’s 400 IM in 4:49.03.

Heather MacLean of Etobicoke, Ont., found a little relief in a frustrating season by winning the 200 freestyle in 2:05.20. MacLean failed to qualify for the World Championship team and also missed going to the World Student Games.

MacLean also was part of the UBC Dolphins team of Noemie Thomas, Brittney Harley and Lauren Lavigna that won the 400 freestyle relay in 3:49.43.

Retired swimmer Annamay Pierse, a former world record holder in the 200-metre breaststroke, was honoured during a special ceremony. Pierse’s parents, her sisters and friends saw her presented with a plaque that contained her swimming history plus photographs and memorabilia.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s cool to know I had such a fun career and I have all these people here supporting me.

“I had more friends than I thought come out to see this and be a part of it because they were all part of my career. It was cool.”

Pierse was born in Toronto, grew up in Edmonton and attended UBC. A finalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she still holds the Canadian 100 and 200-metre breaststroke record. She broke the 200-metre breaststroke short-course world record in March 2009 then set the long-course record during the semifinals at that summer’s World Championships. She swam to a silver medal in the final.

Brent Hayden, the Olympic bronze medallist in the 100-metre freestyle and former world champion, will be honoured in a retirement ceremony Saturday night.

Other men’s event winners included Kier Maitland of Edmonton, 800-metre freestyle, 8:17.94; Andrew Poznikoff of Drumheller, Alta., 100 breaststroke, 1:03.70; and Kelly Aspinall of Nanoose Bay, B.C., 50 butterfly, 24.47 seconds.

American Ellese Zalewski won the women’s 50-metre butterfly in 27 seconds.

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