Hayden, Magnini share first-ever gold at worlds

Updated: March 29, 2007, 3:33 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Canadian Brent Hayden and Filippo Magnini of Italy both came to the world championships determined to win the 100-meter freestyle.

Filippo Magnini and Brent Hayden
AP Photo/Mark BakerCanada's Brent Hayden (left) and Italy's Filippo Magnini shared the gold in the 100-meter freetyle with identical times of 48.43 seconds.

In the end, they both did.

Hayden and defending champion Magnini made history Thursday when the pair finished the men's final in identical times -- the world championships' first-ever dead heat for gold.

"I feel absolutely great, on top of the world -- well, with Filippo," said Hayden, the first Canadian gold medalist at Melbourne.

The gold medal has a special significance for the Canadian, who dedicated the win to his late grandfather.

"This goes to my granddad, he died shortly after we left for Australia," Hayden said. "I told myself I would win a medal for him."

Magnini and Hayden both touched the wall in 48.43 seconds. Australia's Eamon Sullivan took bronze.

South Africans Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling -- the silver and bronze medalists at the previous worlds in Montreal -- finished seventh and eighth. Two-time Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband was sixth, again failing to win his first world championship.

World Championships Medals

Hayden tried not to be intimidated by the other stars in the race.

"There is always a point where you feel like you've hit the wall, and that is what I felt when I was 20 meters out," Hayden said. "But I told myself, 'You've come too far not to do this.' So I didn't take a breath and put my head down and went as fast as I could."

When they touched, all eight swimmers turned to the scoreboard to check the results. The first five finishers were within a tenth of a second of each other.

"First I saw that I was the first and I felt happy," Magnini said. "When I saw there was another name, my happiness remained."

Hayden didn't immediately realize he'd tied for gold.

"There was like a two-second delay," he said. "I saw the No. 1 and saw Magnini's name, and then saw my name and the No. 1."

After finishing fourth in the 100 freestyle at Montreal, Hayden came to the worlds with some added confidence. He won the event at last year's Pan Pacific championships in Victoria, Canada.

But that victory wasn't enough to keep the nerves at bay when he got to the worlds.

"I woke up this morning with my heart just pounding because of this race," he said. "I was very nervous, even on the bus my heart was pounding, but I got a best time and Canada got a gold medal."

After winning at Montreal, Magnini felt obligated to at least claim a share of gold in Melbourne.

"The first time, [winning] was something unexpected, I was crazy for winning," he said. "Today I'm happy cause I did what I felt was my duty. I said before that we would make the Italian anthem play here, and we did."

Hayden was less confident of his chances to stand atop the winner's podium.

"The only time I thought about it was when I was in grade three and we were going around the classroom and everyone was saying what they wanted to do when they grew up," he recalled. "I said I wanted to be in the Olympics, but no one thought that was going to be a reality."

Magnini said he felt right at home at Rod Laver Arena.

"I was even more moved when I saw that during the Italian anthem all the public were clapping their hands," he said. "An Italian won, and the Australian crowd clapped their hands as if I was one of them."

Now, with the Beijing Olympics about 17 months away, the 100 free has two ready-made favorites -- not to mention rivals.

"Everybody talks about rivalries, but with us both being up there we can't be mad at each other," Hayden said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press