Fri, September 20, 2013

Weinberger wins bronze in 10km swim

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency


Canada's Richard Weinberger (L) and Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli compete in the men's 10km marathon swimming at Hyde Park during the London Olympic Games August 10, 2012. (REUTERS)


LONDON - Six hours after the presentation of his Olympic medal, Richard Weinberger had just one request: “I want some underwear,” he said.

He pulled his rather skinny jeans down a notch to show. “See,” he said, “I’m still wearing the same suit I swam in.

“I really need to change.”

So on the way to Canada House to see his parents, shake some hands and show off the brand new toy around his neck, the plan was to stop and buy this skinny insomniac from Victoria, B.C., Canada’s newest no-name medal winner, a new pair of underwear.

This is what happens when you win a medal, aren’t likely expected to win, don’t understand the process.

And, in truth, he wasn’t the least bit upset about it, although he was a touch uncomfortable.

Weinberger had become something of a trivia question Friday, but only if you want to get real trivial. He won Canada’s 17th medal of the Olympic Games, the 11th bronze, becoming the first Canadian to win a medal in marathon swimming. He also became the first Canadian to take part in an Olympic marathon swimming event.

It’s just not that popular a sport — and when you consider an average day of practice means swimming a minimum eight kilometres, well it’s easy to understand why. But Weinberger, 22, loves it, and for a young guy who can’t sit still — “see, my leg is shaking, it’s always moving” — who can’t sleep and who spent the night before his event “up all night” watching Silly Cat videos, he is happy with his sport of choice, coached by three-time Olympic swimmer Ron Jacks, whose more famous brother Terry is best known for the 1974 Canadian hit single, Seasons In The Sun.

Weinberger’s season in the London sun began with a dive off the pier at Hyde Park into the Serpentine and ended after one hour 50 minutes and change behind Germany’s Thomas Lurz and Tunisia’s Ousamma Mellouli. He finished less than five seconds behind the gold-medal winner, Mellouli. He finished less than a second ahead of Spyros Gianniotis of Greece.

In fact, a previous loss to Gianniotis showed the kind of modern day athlete Weinberger happens to be.

He downloaded a photo from the finish of the loss, made it his screen saver on his computer, and looked at it every day for months leading up to the Olympics. “That was my motivation. I didn’t want to lose to him again.”

Instead, he finished third behind two others — was believing gold was within reach — and called his medal “a happy bronze. I’ve come a long way. I’m going to make this turn colours into gold.”

He was talking about the next Olympics. Four years ago, when the Beijing Games were going on, he had no idea he would ever be an Olympian.

“I was this goofy, scrawny kid who wanted to be a varsity swimmer.” He was about to head to the University of Victoria. He was racing in pools back then.

But a friend he trained with turned to marathon swimming and he decided to join him — and before long he had surpassed his good friend.

“Dave (Creel, his friend) taught me everything I know. Him and my coach.” And yes, there was even motivation this week from a least likely source.

“One of my favourite DJ banks is called EmiNeNce and on Wednesday they put out a new podcast and on the description below it said “Good luck to Richard Weinberger in the men’s 10-kilometre marathon.’ And that really helped me.

“That was actually my pump up music.”

He doesn’t need to get pumped up any longer, but he could use some sleep. And some underwear.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @simmonssteve