Page powers to gold at Commonwealth Games swimming trials

A brewing cross-strait rivalry will carry Canadian men’s 400-metre individual medley swimming toward the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Alec Page of Victoria held off a furious challenge from Luke Reilly of Richmond to win the event Thursday evening at Saanich Commonwealth Place in the Canadian swim trials for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

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Claremont-grad Page touched in 4:15.80 and McMath-grad Reilly in 4:15.86 to qualify for Glasgow. They were the third- and fourth-fastest times recorded in the world so far this year.

The 20-year-old Page’s progression has taken him from 23rd at the 2012 London Summer Olympics to 13th at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona. Reilly has qualified for his first senior national team.

“I just put my head down and went for it in the last 50 metres,” said Page, who said he could feel Reilly’s presence in Thursday’s riveting final.

“I’m used to being up front [alone]. It’s really great to have two guys [pushing each other nationally]. Pushing to get to that podium in Rio is the goal.”

It’s part of a process that includes the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Pan-Pacific championships this summer in Glasgow and Gold Coast, respectively, and 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and world aquatics championships in Russia next year.

“The goal for the Commonwealth Games is make the final … the podium in the back of the mind from there,” said Page.

The 18-year-old Reilly reveled in his breakthrough.

“This is really exciting, because Alec is who I’ve looked up to,” he said.

“I’ve had my sights on Alec for awhile.”

More than 500 swimmers from more than 100 clubs have gathered from across Canada. Up for grabs are 30 berths on the Canadian swim team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games from July 23-Aug. 3 in Glasgow and 36 on the team for the 2014 Pan Pacific championships Aug. 21-25 on the Gold Coast of Australia.

The four-day Canadian trials continue today and conclude Saturday at Saanich Commonwealth Place with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. The finals each night are webcast live on Sportsnet.ca.

SPLASH NOTES: Paige Miller from Caledon, Ont., who swims for Texas A&M, is the NCAA women’s 100-backstroke champion, not as reported Thursday … The vaunted Aussie swim team is holding its trials for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs this week in Brisbane … The Canadian trials for the 2015 Pan Am Games and FINA world championships are in Toronto … The bidding war for the Rio 2016 Canadian Olympic swim trials is between Edmonton, Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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