Rolland thrown a lifeline
Limpert's offer salvages dream
By TOBY McCRAE -- Winnipeg Sun
Nadine Rolland alone couldn't save her Olympic dreams from sinking. But Marianne Limpert's kind sacrifice brought them safely above water.
At last weekend's Olympic swim trials at the Pan Am Pool, Limpert of Fredericton, N.B., finished in a first-place tie with Montreal teen Jenna Gresdal in the 50-metre freestyle event.
Both qualified for the Olympics by finishing five one-hundredths of a second under the qualifying standard. Rolland was third, one one-hundredths under the standard.
"I saw third on the board, then I looked up and said to myself, 'Oh, 25:95, I made it, I made the cut!' " Rolland said yesterday. "But then, I heard there was a 25:93. I said, `No! I can't lose by one one-hundredth of a second. It just can't be true,'" she said.
The third-place finish meant Rolland wouldn't compete in Sydney. After 18 years of training in Montreal and France, the 25-year old blonde-haired pixie said she could've sunk to the bottom of the pool. She was off the team.
"I wanted to cry, I almost did. Everybody was looking at me. I saw Marianne, she looked right at me, so I put my head down. But I couldn't cry, I had to prepare for the next event," said Rolland.
With encouragement from her coach, Rolland swam the 4x100 freestyle relay, and then went for drug testing. An hour passed while Rolland let the disappointment sink in, all the while stifling her tears.
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"Then my coach came up to me and said, 'Guess what? You're going to the Olympics.' I said, `what are you talking about?' "
Seeing the crushed Rolland standing defeated on the podium, Limpert had asked officials if it was possible to step out of her spot in the 50 free, and give it to Rolland instead. Limpert, 28, won a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the 200-metre individual medley, and had already qualified for Sydney in the 200 IM, the 100 free and the relay.
"This is something I will remember all my life. She told me, 'well, you deserved it, the race was so close, but you have to swim fast in Sydney, or else,' " Rolland said.
Canada's Olympic swim team leaves for Australia in three weeks.