Former South Surrey swimmer Richard Weinberger – who now lives and trains in Victoria – took another step toward a berth in the next Summer Olympics, after a double-gold performance in Florida on the weekend.
Weinberger, a 21-year-old Semiahmoo Secondary grad, opened the 10th annual Open Water Festival in Fort Myers, Fla. with a victory in the men’s 10-km event, finishing the grueling challenge in two hours, four minutes and 12 seconds – just two seconds ahead of Victoria’s Aimeson King.
Then, later that same day, Weinberger won gold in the Crippen Mile race, named in honour of 26-year-old American open-water swimmer Fran Crippen, who died last October during a World Cup race in the Middle East.
Eighty-three swimmers took part in the mile race.
And while the 10-km victory earned Weinberger a sport at FINA World Championships later this summer in Shanghai, China – which is one step from an Olympic berth – the win in the race named for Crippen also meant a lot to the South Surrey native.
“He was such a great swimmer,” Weinberger said. “I remember telling my coach, ‘I wish I had his speed, I wish I had his stroke.’ Just his attitude, everything – he was such a great swimmer.”
The Open Water Festival also served as a trial meet for the Canadian national team, and Weinberger’s victory gives him an inside track to qualify in the 10-km race – which is a new distance added since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Weinberger – a former indoor swimmer with the South Surrey-based Pacific Sea Wolves – has plenty of international experience already. Last summer, he was the top Canadian swimmer at a FINA World Cup event in Quebec, and he was also won a bronze medal in the 10-km race at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships last summer in Los Angeles.