It was just three short years from the day Rick began training seriously to the day he was standing on the blocks for the finals of the men’s 200 metre freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, about to go stroke-for-stroke with the established stars of the swimming world. That was, he says, a defining moment in his life.
Growing up in Salmon Arm, with a father who was President of the local swimming club and two older brothers swimming in the “Summer League” – training in May and June, competing on weekends in July and August – Rick naturally became involved himself and discovered he was very good at it. In fact, he was the first person to go under a minute in the Summer League in the 100 metre backstroke, a record that stood for the next 10 years.
Rick moved to Victoria in 1997 for the University of Victoria and its swimming program. It was the first time he had trained year-round, with sessions twice daily. He thought he was a pretty good swimmer but “I was annihilated in the first few workouts,” he laughs. Instead of discouraging him, it ignited the drive and determination of the first-class athlete. “I was able to adapt very quickly,” he says. “That’s always been my strength as an athlete.”
By the end of his first semester, he had switched strokes to freestyle and qualified for the National Championships. In his second semester, he qualified for the Canadian team at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. Rick went on to win the most international medals in Canadian swimming history, capturing 27 medals across three Commonwealth Games, six World Championships, and three Olympic Games, becoming only the eighth Canadian swimmer ever to compete in three Olympics. He has also reached the podium in many other major competitions. Yet what he considers the highlight of his career was not a medal performance but his sixth place finish in the men’s 200 metre freestyle at the 2004 Olympics in Athens – one of the greatest and fastest races in Olympic swim history – against legendary swimmers Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett (Australia), Pieter van den Hoogenband (Netherlands) and Michael Phelps (USA). “It was my biggest race and biggest accomplishment,” he says. “That will stick with me the rest of my life.”
Swimming out of Victoria except in 2001-2003 when he attended the University of Calgary, Rick set 24 national records, including one that may never be broken: being the only Canadian to win every freestyle event – 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m – at a single national championship. He was a national team member from 1997 and Captain of the national team from 2002 until his retirement from swimming in 2009. He has given back to the sport through his coaching and was an executive member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission from 2008 to 2012, as well as acting as Athlete Mentor in the Athletes’ Village during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
SPONSORED BY UVIC VIKES