Richard Weinberger (foreground) battles competitors in close quarters during Tuesday’s 10-km open-water marathon swim. He placed 17th.

South Surrey’s Weinberger 17th in open-water 10K

South Surrey marathon swimmer falls off medal pace on final lap of race at 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Heading into the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Richard Weinberger had a ‘gold or bust’ attitude.

“I’m not going there trying to just win a medal, or finish in the top-five or any of that. I’m going for gold and that’s it,” he told Peace Arch News earlier this month.

And though he didn’t achieve his ultimate goal of winning the men’s 10-km open-water marathon swim – held Tuesday in the waters of Rio’s Copacabana Beach – he’s content knowing he did all he could to put himself into a position to win.

The 26-year-old South Surrey native and bronze medallist from the 2012 Games finished 17th – he had been as high as fourth – crossing the finish line in one hour, 53 minutes and 16.4 seconds.

Weinberger was in fifth place with one lap of the 2.5-km course left to go, but at that point – with as many as 10 swimmers bunched together – he fell back as the jockeying for position intensified in the choppy waters.

“I was swimming so easy there,” he said. “As the fourth lap started, there was a lot of fighting and open-water tactics used by a lot of these guys that don’t cause yellow flags, don’t cause red flags. So I fell back.”

As well, Weinberger said he “started having a little bit of breathing issues” toward the end of the race, and though he soldiered on until the finish line – which needed numerous photo-finishes to determine placings – it was tough to stick with the leaders.

“These guys are as tough as nails. I held my cool as long as I could… I knew that at around 500 metres (to go) I’d lost my chance at the podium.”

The gold medal went to Netherland’s Ferry Weertman, who clocked a time of 1:52:59.8, while Greece’s Spiros Gianniotis was silver, and France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier bronze.

Weinberger was something of a surprise medallist in 2012 – though he came into the Games with a strong resume, he wasn’t listed as a pre-race favourite – and told PAN he won bronze that year on a diet that consisted of “drinking chocolate milk and eating pizza.”

This time around, he was far better prepared.

“I’m really happy with my preparation,” Weinberger added. “The past two years I put a lot of preparation into working with my sleep issues and consistent training. I improved tenfold with that. I knew I was strong enough to win this race, it just wasn’t my day.”

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