Raising An Olympian: Richard Weinberger, Open Water Swimming

One of BC’s best in the 2012 London Olympics is Richard Weinberger.   A local athlete taking part in open water swimming – which makes up a portion of the 34 different swimming events.  Just two of the events are 10km in open water and Weinberger is in one of them.

The open-water competition will be held August 9 and 10, in the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park. (see schedule at end of blog) 

Of the  34 different swimming events at the Olympics this year, there are 17 males and 17 females taking part.  Aside from the two, 10 km open-water swims; the rest of the 32 events will take place in a 50 m, long course  pool.

Swimmer, Richard Weinberger and his family are the neighbours of Matrix Group owners, Likky and Sam Lavji.  Instead of knocking on their door to borrow a cup of sugar, this time we asked his parents, Marina and Tony, for their time and they shared with us what it is like to raise an Olympian.  They provided some great insight to help you ‘really’ get to know the stories behind all the great athletes that represent Canada and their families.

(Please read, share and support all our athletes in the 2012 Olympics!)

Q: Do you remember the first few times you took Richard swimming?  Did you a notice he had a love for the water/sport from an early age?

A: “The first time I took Richard for swim lessons he was 4 years old and he had absolutely no interest in learning how to swim and he didn’t like the water.  In fact, he didn’t even advance to the second level.  When he was 5, we moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  We were living on a complex and the pool was the kids playground.  He met three little guys from Germany who could swim like fish.  I would take Richard to the pool every day and he would sit and watch these three little guys.  I guess he just got tired of watching and one day he just stepped into the water and started swimming.  I was amazed.  Within a few days he was holding his own with those little fellows and they became friends.  After that his dad would swim with him and he learned to dive and other aquatics from his dad.”

Q: When did he first start swimming for more than just fun?

A: “He started out swimming competitively as a pool swimmer in Vernon, BC at the age of 7.  When we moved to Surrey he swam for Pacific Sea Wolves and Surrey Knights.  It was all fun up to the point when he recieved funding and his scholarship in 2010.  He took the view that it was a job and he had responsibilities to his employer. He still has fun and keeps things light when training and competing but he knows he has to perform well.”

Q: Relive the moment when you all learned Richard was going to the 2012 Olympics in London?

A: “We were in Portugal watching the pre-qualifying.  As always, I am usually calm during the race, cheering and doing my thing until the last 400 meters and then I find it difficult to watch.  After the race when they announced he finished second place then I could feel myself hyper-ventilating and then I started telling everyone that would listen that he was our son.  We ran to where he was exiting the water and he had the biggest smile on his face.  He put his arms around us and we were hugging each other.  By the time they got to medal presentation Tony and I were both cryingTwo days later it really impacted us and we just looked at each other and said, “our son is an Olympian.”

Q: Richard won the 10KM marathon swimming international in London unexpectedly – what was that moment like a year before the Olympics?

A:  “When Richard won the gold in London we all knew he was going to go to Olympics.  He worked very hard and the results show how much time and training he put into getting ready for the second pre-Olympic qualifying.  Even with his equipment incident, getting run over by all the other swimmers, ending up in 61st place 200 meters into the race, he finished the 6th and last lap in 2nd place.  I was boarding a flight out of Phoenix when he was getting in the water that morning in London.  When I landed to pick up my connecting flight I checked the results.  The first thing I read on facebook was “I won the race mamma.”  I just sat there and cried.  People were looking at me and then I started telling everyone in the airport my son had just won the pre-race in London.  I told everyone who would listen.  They were all very nice and no one called security.”

Q: What has been the hardest part in his journey? If anything significant stands out.

A: The hardest part in his journey is when he has had to figure out how to balance everything in his life, being a full time student,  training (16-20 km a day)  even when he was sick and, just everyday life.

Q: Are there any funny points to mention or superstitions you or him follow each event day?

A: “I know that he listens to his music, chats with his competitors and he likes to have some quiet time.  As for me, I pray for my son before, during and after every race.”

Open water schedule

Date Event (12:00h local time (UTC+1))
Thursday 9 August Women’s marathon 10 km
Friday 10 August Men’s marathon 10 km


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