Worsley: Olympic experience amazing despite near miss | SteamboatToday.com

Worsley: Olympic experience amazing despite near miss

which finished 14th.

— It was with a mix of pride and disappointment that Steamboat Springs and Canadian Olympic swimmer left the pool in London early Sunday morning.

Making his Olympic debut in the men's 200-meter freestyle, he said he swam his very best race. It was good enough to win his heat, and it was good enough for a personal best in the event.

His finishing time of 1 minute, 48.14 seconds was a split second outside the qualifying time for the semifinals, however, and that left him a split second away from his goal.

"As much as it's upsetting, it was one of the best moments of my life," he said. "I gave it my all, and it just wasn't quite enough to get me in there. I can't be upset because it was everything I had."

Worsley does get to take with him the unique distinction of having won a race at the Olympics, and it was a heck of a race.

He was a non-factor after the first of four lengths of the pool, in fourth place, "swimming my own race," he said. He climbed up to second after the next 50 meters and stayed close on race leader, Glenn Surgeloose, of Belgium, for 50 more meters.

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He finally pulled ahead after the push off the final wall and the London crowd roared as he surged into the lead and hammered it down the home stretch. He led for most of the final leg and easily was the first to the wall.

The final 100 was his fastest ever.

"That last 50, I'll call it an Olympic 50," he said. "I gave it everything I had, came home with as much speed as I had. The power of being in the Olympic stadium can't be described. It's a unique experience."

He hit the wall and was beaming when he saw his time flash on the scoreboard. He pumped his fist, offered a thumbs up, then a wave into the camera to the family and friends he said he so appreciates back home.

The time was slightly faster than his previous best, set in 2009 when racers still were allowed to use "super suits" in the water. It was well faster than anything he's posted since.

"Just to come out here and perform the fastest I've ever done in my life and have it be at the Olympic Games, that was just a moment of pure happiness for me," he said.

All 16 of the semifinal swimmers came from the morning's final three heats. Worsley ended up a crushing 17th, 0.17 seconds behind Switzerland's Dominik Meichtry.

China's Yang Sun was the top qualifier, finishing in 1:46.24. In his heat, Worsley was 0.46 seconds ahead of Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, of Israel, in at 1:48.60. Cristian Quintero Valero, from Venezuela, was third at 1:48.71.

Worsley said the whole experience was something he'll never forgot, but that it also was something he didn't exactly expect.

The race and the moments leading up to it had taken place a million times in his head. There, it always was perfect. He dreamed time and time again about taking the starting block knowing he was at his physical peak, about the pride surging through his veins and about a moment of clarity clearing his mind just before a clean dive into the pool and a powerful race.

It wasn't like that.

He was nervous. He wasn't entirely comfortable with his training leading up to the Games and he was surprised, at its root, that there were aspects of the whole experience that felt like any old meet rather than the Olympics.

"You have these expectations about when you come to the Olympics, of it being this momentous thing," he said. "You've built it up in your head to be this amazing thing. Don't get me wrong. It was amazing. It was the coolest experience of my life, but things like that are never what you expect them to be.

"I wasn't in the mindset I thought I'd be going up on the blocks. I thought I'd be so prepared, so ready for the moment and everything would be perfect leading up to it. It wasn't like that."

He stressed again that it was all just different than he'd expected, not worse.

There was plenty that struck him as amazing. He met the Queen after training Saturday and was thinking about Tuesday, when he's set to return to the pool for the men's 800-meter freestyle relay.

He'll lead off Canada's team in that race, and he said he's hoping to be even faster than he was Sunday.

He already was looking forward to diving into the pool.

"When I dove in, I felt that Olympic energy," he said. "You can't ask for anything more than that. It's a feeling all of its own."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

Watch online

Blake Worsley’s men’s 200-meter freestyle swimming heat can be seen online at http://www.nbcolympics.com/video in the “Swimming: Day 2 Prelims” video. His race starts at about the 34-minute mark of the 2 hour and 22 minute segment.