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Islanders at the Olympics

Young athletes set to break out of pack; Runner Cam Levins of Black Creek sets personal best, moves to final
"I knew I just needed to get to the last lap and go," Cam Levins said after his personal-best 5,000-metre run.

Youth will be served.

Among fledgling Island athletes little-known heading into London, runner Cam Levins, cyclist Gillian Carleton, rower Patricia Obee and open-water swimmer Richard Weinberger were pegged as the potential breakout performers of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

St. Margaret's School grad Carleton delivered at the Olympic Velodrome with a bronze medal, Stelly's Secondary grad Obee fell short on the waters of Eton Dorney, while their fellow Victorian Weinberger is up Friday at 4 a.m. PDT in the men's 10K in the Serpentine at Hyde Park.

On Wednesday, emerging Islander Levins, from tiny Black Creek, continued adding to his lengthening saga. The 23-year-old advanced to the men's 5,000-metres final of the London Games by running a personal best 13:18.29 to place eighth in the qualifying races at Olympic Stadium, which sent 15 runners to the final on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

"I'm glad to have made it through," said the former B.C. high school cross-country champion, out of G.P. Vanier Secondary in Courtenay.

Levins was an unknown until scoring the NCAA 5,000- and 10,000-metre sweep, seemingly out of nowhere, this spring.

The Olympic rookie's credible 11th-place finish last weekend against a killer field in the London Games 10,000 metres proved he belongs.

"I was more confident in the 5K than the 10K," Levins said in a statement.

"I knew I just needed to get to the last lap and go. Finishing 11th in the 10K provided me with a lot of experience and gave me a big confidence boost that I can race at this level."

The driven Islander, known for his voluminous training regimen, in which he goes through running shoes the way B.C. Ferries does White Spot burgers, is showing he certainly can.

Levins has been described by Wynn Gmitroski, the Victoria coach guiding the Canadian middle-distance runners at London, as the "potential male version of Angela Chalmers." That's saying something, considering the latter Victoria runner won Commonwealth Games gold in 1994 on her home Centennial Stadium track after taking bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

These kinds of comparisons, not to mention the recent sponsorship Levins signed with Nike, is heady stuff for a guy who started in Grade 7 with the Comox Valley Cougars Track Club as an unassuming runner who used to get beaten a lot.

If he gets beaten Saturday by the 10,000-metres

1-2 combo Mo Farah of Britain and Galen Rupp of the U.S., or other heralded runners such as Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lamong, at least it will be by the best in the world at the biggest sporting spectacle in the world.

And these other guys may not be beating him for long on any stage.

ISLAND TRAILS: Simon Whitfield says he has a broken collarbone. The Victoria triathlete, who crashed in the Olympic race Tuesday, confirmed the suspicion.

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