By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
Getting to the Olympics once is a major highlight for any athlete, but the opportunity to compete on amateur sports biggest stage for a second time makes a career.
“It’s not a one shot, like maybe it was a mistake the first time or maybe it was just a happy accident,” said Richard Hortness, a swimmer at the London Aquatic Club. “It really validates what we’re doing.”
The 26-year-old, along with his Forest City teammate, Joe Bartoch, will be heading to London, England for the Summer Games at the end of July after both swam their way onto their second Olympic roster.
“For some people you make it once and other things happen in your life and kind of move on,” Bartoch said, earning his spot on the national team by coming first in the men’s 100m butterfly with a time of 53.01 seconds at the Canadian Olympic swim trials in Montreal earlier this month. “If that’s what you want to do, then waiting around for four years is what you’re going to do.”
Hortness came second in the men’s 100m freestyle with 49.21 at the national time trial, and to say the least, neither athlete has waited around over the last four years to be called to the Olympic team again.
“That’s the thing. You’re training for four years or your whole life for a race that takes 52 or 49 seconds,” Hortness said. “It’s one of those things where it’s a lot of investment for one shot and it is one shot.”
Since competing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, both men have tested their skills at the World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships.
The pair have never earned a podium finish at the international level, only owning the pools in Canada.
When the gun fires in England it’s likely both won’t finish the race well enough to put a medal around their neck, but they’re certainly going to try.
“Especially my first time at the Olympics, I knew there was no way I was making it (onto the podium),” Hortness said of his 27th ranking in the 50m freestyle at the 2008 games, while Bartoch finished 34th in the 100m butterfly and 10th in the 4x100m medley relay.
“Even a final would have been a big achievement, so at that point you just go to see if you can move faster in the water than you’ve ever done before,” Hortness added. “If you can do that then that really is a best.”
At the 2012 Games, Hortness will be competing in the 4x100m freestyle and Bartoch in the 4x100m medley relay, again.
The fact both Hortness and Bartoch have already experienced the biggest stage for their sport will play in their favour. Nerves will be a little calmer and most things won’t seem so new.
“You get a real mix of a kind of carnival theme to it… it’s a real crazy kind of aspect that way and you have to learn how to keep your head in the game,” Hortness said.
“You’ve seen it, like the routine and what to expect based on everything and all the media being so huge,” Bartoch added.
One person not counting the Forest City duo out at the Olympics is their coach Paul Midgley, making it clear that Bartoch has been the premier Canadian 100m butterfly swimmer since 2007.
Bartoch, 29, was born in London and joined the London Aquatic Club when he was four years old. After about 15 years under Midgley’s guidance during his time at the club, the coach guesses the Bartoch/Midgley tandum is the longest for a coach/athlete at a high performance level in Canada.
Hortness, originally from Medacine Hat, Alta., connected with Bartoch when the pair attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on swimming scholarships. The idea to move to London came when Bartoch graduated from UNLV and Hortness noticed the older swimmer getting better.
At the time of the last Summer Olympics, Bartoch had already spent a year back at the London Aquatic Club, while Hortness was still training at school. The Alberta native moved to the Forest City two years ago and can only hope the transition to the new swim team will help him as it did for his partner.
“They’re very much in the mix,” Midgley said. “They’re going there for more than just a swim.”