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Nanoose Bay's Mason cracks high jump top 10

What the unlikely highjumper Derek Drouin served up Tuesday was certainly needed by a nation stuck on 10 medals since Saturday, when Victoria swimmer Ryan Cochrane's silver and Victoria cyclist Gillian Carleton's bronze contributed to a three-medal h
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Michael Mason of Nanoose Bay reacts after just missing his final jump in Tuesday's high jump event in London.

What the unlikely highjumper Derek Drouin served up Tuesday was certainly needed by a nation stuck on 10 medals since Saturday, when Victoria swimmer Ryan Cochrane's silver and Victoria cyclist Gillian Carleton's bronze contributed to a three-medal haul.

If Canada was to ever again reach the podium in Olympic men's high jump - the first time since B.C. boy Greg Joy's silver in the home-nation 1976 Montreal Summer Games - experts had pointed to former world junior champion Mike Mason of Nanoose Bay as the likely jumper to do it.

Instead, it was the unfancied Drouin of Corunna, Ont., who turned the trick while sharing the bronze medal with two other jumpers Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in London.

"The Olympic Games are made for moments like this," said Canadian assistant chef de mission Sylvie Bernier, in a statement. "Derek Drouin surprised a lot of people tonight."

The Parksville Ballenas Secondary graduate Mason, meanwhile, finished eighth in the final at London in his second Olympic Games. That's eighth best in the world and certainly nothing of which to be ashamed of, even if it was the unexpected other guy who delivered for Canada.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The real catastrophe of Canada's close-call Tuesday - which claimed Tara Whitten in cycling, Custio Clayton in boxing, Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Elise Marcotte in synchro duet, with diver Alex Despatie and the women's hoops team also falling among others - was that Victoria's Simon Whitfield looked positioned to pop one in the men's triathlon.

The Islander appeared poised to end the London men's triathlon race thundering down the final stretch, challenging the Brownlee brothers with one of his patented late kicks in the run portion. Could you have imagined that as a career topper for the 37-year-old icon?

But you have to stay on the bike to get to the run, which of course, Whitfield didn't. What made it worse was that it was an unforced error - no other rider knocked him to the pavement as in that Tour de France crash that took out fellow-Victorian Ryder Hesjedal this year. Instead, fate turned on a speed bump for Whitfield, who goes out head held high as one of Canada's greatest Olympians.

THE OTHER GUYS: Forgotten in the swirl of the Whitfield London Olympic triathlon saga was that Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., who lives and trains in Victoria, placed 25th and veteran Brent McMahon of Victoria was 27th.

"All three of us guys [Whitfield, Jones, McMahon] were incredibly fit and I could feel that in the race," said two-time Olympian McMahon, an Islander who overcame an 18-month layoff due to a knee injury during the quadrennial to gut it out and qualify for London under the wire.

"I was so close to bridging the gap today and I just missed it on the swim. It was so rough out there.

That is racing - some days you make those gaps and are in the lead pack and other days you draw the bad lottery ticket. That's the way it goes."

The three Canadian men's triathletes are among the 48 athletes from or based on the Island who are competing in the London Olympics.

STAR-CROSSED GAMER: That has to be Whitfield's coach, the understated Jon Brown of Victoria. Brown finished fourth - that most agonizing of Olympic placings - in the men's marathon at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Summer Games while running for his native Great Britain.

Then on Tuesday, the Whitfield crash happened in Brown's first Olympics as a coach. Brown, who has become a fixture on the Island running and now triathlon scenes, may need some time about now in one of those famous British pubs.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com