Andy Watson

University of Victoria swimmer Richard Weinberger won another open-water swimming medal on Saturday, inching closer and closer to a spot on the Canadian Olympic team for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games this summer.

The Surrey, B.C., native won bronze at the FINA 10-km swim in Brazil in an extremely close race, finishing with a time of two hours, 11 minutes and 42.34 seconds behind world champion Spiros Gianniotis of Greece and Italian Nicola Bolzonello who finished less than three seconds ahead of him.

”I’m very excited about this performance. It gives me a lot of confidence and it proves my strong results last year were no fluke,” Weinberger said in a statement. “To be racing side by side and keeping pace with a guy like [world champion] Spyros was exhilarating. There is still a long journey ahead, but with continued serious training and hard work, I feel one day I can surpass him.”

This was an important step for the Olympic hopeful, as he managed to beat six 2012 Olympic qualifiers who were in the field, while in unfavourable conditions at the World Cup stop in Santos, Brazil. It was the first time Weinberger managed to keep so close to the top of the field in warmer conditions, which bodes well for the young athlete, as he is generally regarded to be at his best in colder temperatures with minimal waves (conditions which perfectly describe the London Olympic course).

If no other Canadian places higher than third in next week’s 10km in Argentina, he will be guaranteed a spot in the Portugal Olympic Qualifier race in June.

He made a mark on the international scene last summer as a serious medal threat for the London Games thanks in part to his victory on the Olympic course at Hyde Park in a test event in the British capital.

Xavier Desharnais of Sherbrooke, Que., was 16th, while fellow Vike Aimeson King of Victoria finished 31st.