All year, Mustangs athletes stress over meets—from Canadian Interuniversity Sport to intrasquad. And as the summer sun sits low on the horizon, no light will shine brighter than the light on London, England this August.
As the eyes of the world descend upon the Forest City’s British counterpart for the 2012 Summer Olympics, avid Mustangs swim team supporters should be prepared to see a few familiar faces making a splash.
Trained by Mustangs swimming head coach Paul Midgley, the Canadian swimming team will feature a pair of international veterans with Mustangs purple in their blood.
“In Canada, once you reach the top you only ever get to race the best guys in Canada a few times a year,” says Joe Bartoch, a Western graduate student and Olympic swimmer. “Once you break into the international scene, you really get to compare yourself to the rest of the world. Swimming is all about racing, so anytime you get to challenge the rest of the world is quite and experience.”
After attening the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, both Bartoch and teammate Richard Hortness began training at Western’s Student Recreation Centre under Midgley to prepare for the games. Along with training on Western soil, the two assist Midgley in training his squad of student athletes, in hopes of some day working in the same capacity as Midgley himself.
“After having gone to school together in the States and now being reunited as teammates, it is a great way to finish off our careers as athletes and it is great that we can again come out of the same program after training here at Western,” Hortness says.
While Midgley will not be attending the London games due to Bartoch and Hortness’ qualifying positions, he will be attending pre-Olympic training them.
“Unfortunately, this year neither Richard nor myself were fast enough for him to be officially part of the team,” Bartoch explains. “He has received funding and will be able to follow us to our staging camp in [Olbia] on the island of [Sardinia], off the coast of Italy. It’s important for him to be there as he can see how you’re adjusting to travel, time change, food and climate, and write practices accordingly. It’s hard to work with other coaches that have not seen you under different stresses.”
A veteran of the Olympics himself, Midgley is not short of praise and advice for his two students.
“[They should have] lots of personal pride knowing what it took to get there,” Midgley says. “Prepare well so you can compete at your best, and enjoy it. You never know if you will ever get another opportunity.”
With the level of competition at the Olympics unmatched by any other event, this challenge will not be a walk in the park—or a swim in the pool, in this case.
“I have been part of the Canadian 4×100 medley relay for about six years now and we have had some good and okay years,” Bartoch recalls. “Our best placing, of recent, was last year in Shanghai at the 2011 World Championships where we placed seventh. I feel we are competitive for a bronze medal. However, just making the Olympic final would be a career highlight.”
Whether these personal goals come to fruition or not, simply donning the red and white on their bathing caps is seemingly enough for these athletes and for avid Mustangs supporters, it’s nice to see some purple in the pool.