SETUBAL, PORTUGAL -- Zsofia Balazs of Toronto became the first Canadian to earn an Olympic spot in marathon swimming by finishing sixth in the 10-kilometre FINA Olympic qualifier on Saturday.
Balazs produced an extraordinary final lap in frigid waters on Setubal Bay in Portugal to earn her first career Olympic team nomination. Canada had no entries in 2008 when marathon swimming made its Olympic debut in Beijing.
"Right now, I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm actually going to the Olympic Games," said Balazs, 21, in a Swimming Canada press release. "It's something that I've wanted for so long. The biggest challenge for me this week was actually believing in myself that I could actually do it."
Balazs was exhausted as she approached the sixth and final lap. She was 13th after five laps after clocking first, fourth, fifth and fourth in the first four laps respectively.
"I didn't really know where I was," said the two-time world championship team member. "I did a really good last turn though and realized there wasn't that many swimmers ahead of me."
Balazs finished in 1:44:38.8. The top nine swimmers, a limit of one per nation, earned their ticket to London.
Richard Weinberger of Victoria won the silver medal in the men's race Sunday to earn his first career Olympic team nomination.