Malar, Limpert a contrast in styles
By CHRIS STEVENSON -- SLAM! Sports
SYDNEY - At the world class level, the difference between one colour of a medal and another, or even winning or not winning a medal, can be measured in the smallest ways.
Guts? Wanting it more than the next person? Extra time in the weight room? How about a visit to a manicurist?
"Maybe some press-on nails would have made the difference," said a teary-eyed Marianne Limpert after her frantic finish in the women's 200m individual medley came up a nail short of a bronze medal. "Right now, fourth place feels like last."
Limpert, of Fredericton, and the silver medallist in this event four years go in Atlanta, finished a scant 12/100ths of a second behind bronze medallist Cristina Teuscher of the USA.
Joanne Malar of Hamilton wound up fifth as Canada came away empty from a race for which there were high hopes for a medal.
Limpert, who has always saved her best for the biggest races, set a Canadian record with her time of two minutes, 13.44 seconds, breaking Malar's old mark.
The contrast between their two reactions gave a glimpse of their personalities.
Limpert has always been the one who saved her best for the biggest moments while Malar has been viewed, perhaps unfairly at times, she feels, as an athlete who was too soft and lacked mental strength.
In the moments after the race, Limpert sobbed on her coach's shoulder. Malar stood in front of the television cameras and smiled.
"I held it together until I saw my coach," said Limpert, "and some friends in the stands and then I kind of lost it. It's hard. I wanted to go home with a medal."
When asked if maybe Canadians lacked some killer instinct, Limpert conceded: "It's easy to perceive that. I think we give all we can, but sometimes it's just not good enough."
Malar closed out her individual career with a bit of a final surge, but after running last in the field for the first 100 metres, she simply had too much water to make up. She made up some ground in the final 50 metres, but wound up 3.02 seconds off the winning time of the Ukraine's Yana Klochkova. Romania's Beatrice Caslaru won the silver.
Malar wasn't happy with the way the media treated her after finishing fourth in Atlanta, but defended herself against the criticism that what she has done hasn't been good enough for some.
"I was fourth in the world," she said. "Maybe there are a lot of people who don't understand what it's like to make an Olympic final. I'm not out to please the media or someone else. To make the Olympic Games three times is a great feat.
"I'm not walking away from here not proud of myself. I was four-tenths of a second from the bronze."
Malar said she will retire after these Games and would like to pursue a career in broadcasting and the irony wasn't lost on some reporters who had listened to her criticism of the media and then state her desire to get a job in the field.
"I'm going to go home and take up some other things. My whole life has been dedicated to sport. I have to see where my head and my heart take me," she said.
The 27-year-old Limpert isn't sure where she goes from here. In one breath she made it sound like these are her last Olympic Games. In another, she didn't sound so sure.
"There are some 33-year-olds out there swimming great," she said. "It can be done. But right now I have to say these are probably my last Olympics.
"If I had bombed, maybe I would say it's time to go. But I swam my best race. I still think I can swim 2:12."
People can't change the way they are. They can try and change the way they are perceived. Limpert is seen as the one in whom the fire burned brightly and is tough to put out.
Malar is extinguishing her fire and her critics will say it never burned brightly enough. That's the way she is and she wasn't making apologies.
Tuesday's results and the two different reactions to them did nothing to change the perceptions.
Knabe just misses
In the men's 200m breaststroke semifinal, Vancouver's Morgan Knabe started strongly and led most of the way, but faded down the stretch and just missed making the final.
"The last 30 metres was just guts, man. I was biting my teeth and giving it my all," said the 19-year-old. "To get knocked out of the final by 14/100ths of a second...I couldn"t even get angry. I felt like blowing up, but I just couldn't. I saw my coach and we just started laughing."
In the men's 200m freestyle relay, the Canadian team of Mark Johnston of St. Catherines, Brian Johns of Regina, Michael Mintenko of Moose Jaw, Sask., and Rick Say of Salmon Arm, B.C., were in tough against the awesome Australian team which copped the gold as
Aussie ace Ian "Thorpedo" Thorpe won his fourth medal of the Games, adding a third gold medal to go along with a silver.
The Canadian team, which had set a Canadian record in their heat earlier in the day, finished seventh. The United States won the silver while the Netherlands took the bronze.