Evan Van Moerkerke didn't have to wait for his Olympic event. Canada's 4x100m men's freestyle swimming relay team finished seventh overall Sunday at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which will continue until August 21.
"The entire team did very well," said Tillsonburg's Van Moerkerke from Rio. "We all swam our own race and each one of us gave it 100 per cent. I couldn't be happier with how we performed."
Van Moerkerke, Santo Condorelli, Yuri Kisil, Markus Thormeyer had qualified for Sunday evening's final with a second-place finish in their qualifying heat (3:14.06) behind the Russian Federation.
"I actually cried when I saw him do the prelims," said Tillsonburg's Julie Dawley, Aquatics Supervisor at the Tillsonburg Community Centre. "I mean, it's like - wow! Starting off in Tillsonburg, swimming here in our pool. And to see him on TV at the Olympics? Oh yeah."
The pressure was on - only the top eight out of 16 teams from the preliminary round would made it to the finals - and Canada nailed it, earning a fifth-place time.
"I think it (qualifying heat) was bigger for us, here, because it was the first time we were seeing it," said Dawley. "That's why I think I was feeling so emotional."
She chuckled recalling how Evan's parents, Eric and Carol, had been labeled 'Dan and Michele MacLean - Brittany's parents' on the televised broadcast, and how his name was pronounced Van Moerkerk-ee, and his nickname, Van Monster.
"To say you came from this small town, you started your swimming career here," said Dawley. "There have been others (at the national level) too. To see these kids learning how to swim, growing up, and then doing this with their lives. To go that far, it's pretty amazing. It just proves the fact if you work hard... it really is true that if you want it, if you have a desire for it, you can have it."
The Canadians, who finished seventh overall Sunday evening with a time of 3:14.35, had used the same line-up from qualifying heats. Some teams had fresh swimmers, including Team USA. Disappointed with their performance at last year's World Championships in Kazan, Russia, USA won the gold Sunday with a time of 3:09.92 led by a fresh Michael Phelps and two other swimmers - Ryan Held was the only American who swam in the qualifiers earlier that day.
France, the defending Olympic champs, finished second behind USA with a time of 3:10.53 followed by Australia (3:11.37).
Van Moerkerke, who grew up in rural Brownsville / South-West Oxford Township, swimming and competing at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, and going to school in Tillsonburg, went on to develop his skills at the University of Guelph.
"It has been an incredible experience and I have learned a lot," said Van Moerkerke. "I can't begin to explain how amazing the support has been for home and Canada."