<
>

Hayden, Magnini share first-ever gold at worlds

3/29/2007

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

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.


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.