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Weniberger leads four Canadians in Olympic open water qualifier

Richard Weinberger, who swam to victory in last summer's Olympic test event at Hyde Park, then went on to win at the Pan American Games, headlines four Canadian entries in the weekend open water Olympic qualifier at Setubal, Portugal.

Weinberger, of Victoria, B.C., Xavier Desharnais of Sherbrooke, Que., Zsofia Balaz of Toronto and Nadine Williams of Sherwood Park, Alta., are seeking Canada's first ever spot in the 10 km open water race at the London Olympics.

It will be the last opportunity for 102 swimmers from 44 countries to make the Olympic open water line-up. The women's race will be held on June 9 and the men's event on June 10.

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The Canadians are aiming to finish in the top nine swimmers crossing the finish line to secure an Olympic berth. Balaz, who was the first national champion in the women's 10 km, and the veteran Williams have the first crack at being Canada's first qualifier in marathon swimming since it was introduced to the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Weinberger and Desharnais will be vying for a spot in the Men's 10k event on the following day. Weinberger made a name for himself during the World Cup season, with a silver medal in Argentina, and bronze in Brazil.

Twenty swimmers (top 10 for both genders) have already secured their place for London based on the results of the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Two places (one in each gender category) are automatically reserved for Great Britain, the host. The remaining 28 London berths will be decided in Setubal.

According to FINA, the international governing body for swimming, the first 9 women and 9 men to cross the finish line will book a ticket for the Olympic marathon swimming event.Another 10 (5 women and 5 men) will qualify through continental representation (taking into account the best ranked athlete not yet qualified).

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James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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