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2 PCS Products are the Canadian Open Water Swim Team

On Monday August 15 Stephanie Horner, currently coached by PCS' Director of Swimming Ron Jacks, will compete in the Rio Olympic Games, competing in the Women's 10km Marathon Swimming event at 5AM Pacific Time.  The very next day, ex-PCS swimmer Richard Weinberger will jump in and compete in the Men's event after winning Bronze as a PCS swimmer 4 years ago in London - again at 5AM Pacific Time.  As these are the only two Canadian Open Water Swimmers that have qualified for Rio in Open Water Swimming, it is fair to say PCS and elite Open Water Swimming in Canada go hand in hand.

The paths taken by Stephanie and Richard leading up to Rio could not be more different.  Richard Weinberger came to Victoria straight out of high school in the fall of 2008, having trained with Pacific Sea Wolves in Vancouver most recently before that.  Having just made his first national cut in the 1500m freestyle in a time of 16:30 LC, Richard knew that could be just the beginning.  Richard wanted to add Open Water to his arsenal as well as swim with the likes of (among others) his buddy/mentor from his childhood days in Vernon, current PCS coach Dave Creel, who was a competitive distance and Open Water swimmer at the time.   Creel was on a different level to Richard at the time, having competed at the World Championships in Open Water, and swimming under 16:00 LC in the 1500 regularly, but he was a great trainer and someone for Richard to watch, chase and learn from as he grew, learned, and prepared to try out open water.  Richard would continually improve in his first season with PCS; he would win the national SC 5km pool challenge event in November,, would place 5th in the 5km pool race/Open Water Trials in March, swim his first big Open Water race at the US Championships and place 13th in June, and finally, one season after joining PCS he would drop his 1500 time to 15:47 LC at summer nationals and would win Canada Games Gold in both the 10km Open Water event as well as the 800 Freestyle in a blistering time of 7:50 SC.  This success started to open Richard's and everyone else's eyes to the potential he could have in the coming years.

In the next few seasons, Richard would gain as much Open Water experience as possible, and would make a name for himself as one of, if not the, best Open Water Swimmer in Canada.  in 2010, Richard along with coach Ron was named to both the World Open Water Championships team where he would place 13th, and the Pan Pacific Team.  At Pan Pacs, after watching fellow teammates Nick Sinclair and MacKenzie Downing compete with team Canada in the pool, it was Richard's turn to race on the final day of competition.  Richard would compete with the front swimmers the whole way, and would finish third place for a bronze medal, the first international medal of his career, after losing out at the finish to Fran Crippen (RIP) and former World Champion Chip Peterson.  Richard learned two things from this race - he could now compete with the best in the world, and he had to work on his finishing speed and power if he wanted to beat them.  In 2011, Richard would fail to qualify for the 2012 Olympics at the first of two chances, the World Championships in the very warm waters of Shanghai, placing 17th.  This performance, however, would earn him an invitation to London's Open Water Test event three weeks later, a race that Richard would go on to win by a head-spinning 26 seconds over the best swimmers in the world.  This was another huge stepping stone for Richard as he started to believe that reaching the Podium in London was possible.  Richard would train harder than ever before that year, and would never finish a race worst than third place.  He would win the Pan American Games, come second in the second Olympic Trials in Portugal, and eventually win the Bronze Medal in London.  

Upon his return, Richard would continue performing at an elite level with PCS for another year and a half with some ups and downs, but ultimately wanted a change and decided to move to Vancouver, where he has been ever since in his preparation for Rio.

Stephanie Horner took a totally different path to Rio.  Like Richard, Stephanie has been to the Olympics before.  Stephanie competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but as a pool swimmer.  Stephanie would compete for Canada at the 2008 Olympics in the 200 and 400 Freestyle, the 200 Butterfly, and the 4x200 Freestyle Relay, placing 17th, 11th, 20th and 10th overall.  At the 2012 Olympics Stephanie would swim an amazing 400IM at Olympic Trials to get the Gold and a ticket to London, where she would finish 21st overall.

After London, Stephanie shifted her main focus to school at UVic where she studied Commerce.  She would start competing with the UVic team during that time, ultimately qualifying for and competing at the 2013 FISU World Student Games.  Steph started training full time with UVic/PCS during the 2014-15 season while finishing her studies before returning home to Montreal after the FISU games.  It was upon her return home, however, that Steph decided she wanted to try for another Olympic Gaems team, she wanted to compete at her third Olympics and qualify for Rio.  Steph had completed her undergraduate degree and had to choose between competing or working, and obviously swimming and the dream of representing Canada in Rio won.  

Stephanie started to train in her hometown of Montreal with the Académie de natation de Montréal, but interestingly enough her coach in Montreal convinced Stephanie that she should try and go to Rio as an Open Water Swimmer, and leave the pool behind.  This was a bold strategy, especially given the fact that she was obviously so talented in the pool, but they were convinced that it was the best route and started working toward their goals.  At Christmas that season, Ron brought some athletes for training camp at the same pool where Stephanie's team was also going.  They agreed to have Ron lead the distance and Open Water groups for the camp for both groups of athletes, given Ron's recent pedigree and number of athletes in the sport.  Not long after that, Stephanie decided that if she wanted to make it to Rio in Open Water, she should move back to Victoria and train with Ron's group full time.

Experience is a key factor in Open Water success, and Steph's lack of experience was one of the main hurdles to overcome on the road to Rio.  The training involved in preparing for becoming an elite 10km athlete was another step that Steph would have to adjust to quickly.  She would step up to a program that averaged 8km a workout, 9 workouts a week, and the Open Water swimmers don't stop for many breaks and constantly need to build and progress their effort and speed to prepare for the race strategies of 10km swims - it's a gruelling program that not everyone can handle.  Even the best distance swimmers in the pool will take a fair bit more rest, albeit looking for more high end speed more often, and they will do less meters.

After adjusting to the program, getting a few races under her belt, Steph became quite sick and after trying to train through it towards her goals wasn't working out, she was finally diagnosed with pneumonia, and told to take a break until it was gone.  This added to the training lost before the diagnosis was a big blow, and the Canadian Trials to qualify for both the World Championship (the first chance to qualify for Rio in Open Water) and FISU Games teams were fast approaching.  Steph ultimately wasn't able to get herself onto that World Championships team, but was able to qualify for the FISU games team, her first national team as an Open Water Swimmer.  Some athletes would change course after missing that chance, and with Steph's background in the pool many people would have expected her to return to her routes, but she pressed on.  Steph contracted pneumonia again before the FISU games.  She would compete but wasn't able to compete for the win there.  Steph would then travel back to Canada to finish the season by competing at the Megantic World Cup race with PCS teammates Vicky Mock and Kaitlin Gervais, ultimately finishing 5th, her best race up to that point.

The 2015-16 season started, Steph was able to get into better shape for Open Water than ever before, preparing for the season ahead.  The first big race ahead: the qualifer for the Olympic qualifier.  Steph would have to compete in early April in Fort Myers at the US Championships, and come in as one of the top two Canadians in the race to be allowed to compete at the second Olympic Qualifier in Portugal.  Again before this race, the pneumonia came back and affected her preparation, but having gone through it before Stephanie was able to get past it without as much  of an affect this time, and finished the race as the top Canadian, and 16th overall in a packed international field.  She would now be elligible to compete for a spot in Rio, this was big news and put a huge smile on Steph's face.

With this, Steph was able to pick her training up a notch in her preparation for Portugal.  With two short months between these races, Steph would have a solid 6 weeks of training before Portugal to get herself to her very best.  As we all know, she did it well, and was one of the 15 female swimmers in Portugal to qualify for Rio in June!!  With that, Horner became the first Canadian swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games in both the pool and in Open Water Swimming!  Most recently, Steph, along with Richard as well as current PCS swimmers Vicky Mock and Eric Hedlin, competed at the World Cup in Lac St. Jean Quebec in preparation of Rio.  There, Steph was able to have her best result yet, winning the event and becoming the first Canadian woman to win an Open Water World Cup event.  Her confidence is riding high heading into the games.

Richard and Steph have now travelled to Rio, and are hoping to add to the success of the Canadian Team thus far in the games

Other Rio Open Water athletes connected to PCS:

- Aurelie Mueller - Female French swimmer joined PCS for half a season in the 2014-15 season to try and step up her performances to the elite level and make it to Rio.  She would eventually return to France after her boyfriend wasn't able to obtain a working VISA in Canada, but ended up winning the 2015 World Championships, qualifying for Rio, and becoming one of the favourites to win in Rio.

- Jarrod Poort - Male Australian swimmer that Ron and I coached for a month under his coach's request after the 2013 World Championships as he came to Quebec to compete at the Magog and Lac Megantic Open Water events.  He is among the medal favourites in the men's race.