Former South Surrey resident Richard Weinberger competes at Rio.

Former South Surrey resident Richard Weinberger competes at Rio.

‘Frustrating’ Rio swim leaves Weinberger hungry for more

Open-water swimmer faced breathing difficulties due to exhaust from motorized boats on Olympic course.

Richard Weinberger had just finished a guided tour of Rio on Friday, complete with a visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain.

But world-famous sites didn’t call the Semiahmoo Secondary grad to Brazil – it was the Summer Olympics.

Competing in the men’s 10-km open-water swim at his second Olympic Games, the 26-year-old bronze medallist from London 2012 finished 17th in Rio.

“We were definitely on track to win gold. I was strong enough to win gold here, it was just dealing with a circumstance in the race that we kind of misjudged,” he told Peace Arch News in a telephone interview from Copacabana Beach in Rio on Aug. 19.

Weinberger crossed the finish line in one hour, 53 minutes and 16.4 seconds, less than 17 seconds behind the winner. The gold medal went to Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands, who clocked a time of 1:52:59.8. Greece’s Spiros Gianniotis won silver, while France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier finished with bronze.

Watching him in Rio were his parents Tony and Marina Weinberger and girlfriend Stefanie Warren.

Weinberger said the 10-km marathon swim is a developing sport, and every race is different. The biggest difference between his two Olympic experiences was Rio’s addition of 20 motorized boats used by race officials and media. He said breathing fumes from the boats for two hours made his tongue and throat swell, giving him breathing problems late in the race.

Weinberger’s start was good. After the first and second laps, he was in the draft-friendly position of 13th. Entering his third lap, he set a goal of moving into a position where he could win the race.

Heading into the final lap he was in fourth.

“I was in a perfect position to win the race,” he said. “I was swimming well.”

But what he called “tactical swimming” by his competitors – pulling at his legs or getting on top of him outside the view of judges – made him fall to 10th place.

“I feel like I was targeted because I was getting ready to push the pace and hammer it out that last lap,” he said. “I’m probably one of the best athletes at just pacing in the race, but I’m probably not the strongest with fighting and pushing my weight around.”

Fighting off his competitors forced Weinberger to use more energy, and engine exhaust made it impossible for him to regain his position.

“I started gasping or needing more air. My throat was swelling up to a point where I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t sore after the race, I really wasn’t that tired. I had plenty of energy after the race. What was limiting me was breathing the gasoline fumes,” he said. “A lot of my competitors didn’t have a problem but a couple of us did.”

Weinberger said he’s frustrated with the outcome of the race, but he’s happy with his two years of preparation with University of B.C. coaches Steve Price and Tom Johnson, who helped him regain confidence, restore his motivation and conquer a sleep disorder.

Despite his finish, the Vancouver-based athlete is aiming to become a world champion next year.

“I’m pretty pissed off at what happened here, and I’m ready to get back into the pool and just keep going.”

Just Posted

William Henry Rawlison was last seen on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Contributed photo)
Police looking for missing White Rock senior

William Rawlison, last seen on June 20, may be driving to Kamloops

Natalie Brown and Colten Wilke star in the feature film Thunderbird, co-produced by South Surrey-raised Michael Morrison and released this month in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey-raised producer helps bring ‘Thunderbird’ to the screen

Michael Morrison guides B.C.-shot thriller with First Nations connection

File photo
Surrey Board of Trade vows ‘a lot of noise’ will be made about tax increases

Huberman calls for comprehensive tax review at all levels of government

2019 Red Serge Gala guests try their luck at roulette. (Simon Lau photo)
High hopes for in-person Red Serge Gala on Semiahmoo Peninsula

28th fundraiser for community safety programs set for Oct. 23 return

TEASER PHOTO ONLY - Hillcrest Drive-In's sign at the end its run in Surrey, in a photo uploaded to by hermangotlieb.
SURREY NOW & THEN: The city’s last drive-in, Hillcrest showed movies for 50 years on site turned shopping mall

‘It was a good memory, being the last drive-in in the Lower Mainland, at the time,’ says former operator Jay Daulat

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read