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Victoria 10K swimmer 'so happy' after winning Olympics bronze medal

Dark horse misses gold by five seconds

All those unrelenting kilometres in Saanich Commonwealth Place pool paid off Friday morning, as Richard Weinberger of Victoria won the bronze in the men's open-water 10K swimming event at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

"It was such a sense of relief," said Weinberger, a member of the UVic-Pacific Coast Swimming Club, by phone from London. "So much was poured into this race from my family, coaches, friends, supporters, club and training centre that I'm just so happy."

After 10 grinding kilometres, the Olympic open-water event - which took place in the murky Serpentine River in Hyde Park - came down to about a fivesecond difference among the three medallists.

Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia won the open-water gold medal in one hour, 49 minutes, 55.1 seconds. He earlier took bronze in the pool 1,500 metre-freestyle behind silver-medallist Ryan Cochrane of Victoria.

Thomas Lurz of Germany took the open-water silver medal in 1: 49: 58.5

Weinberger collected the bronze in 1: 50: 00.3.

His medal was Canada's 17th of the London Olympics and the fourth for Island athletes - after Cochrane's silver, the Elk Lake-based Canadian men's rowing eight's silver and Victoria track team pursuit cyclist Gillian Carleton's bronze.

Weinberger came into the Olympics as a dark horse, even after winning the official Olympic test event in the Serpentine last year before capturing the 2011 Pan American Games gold medal in Guadalajara, Mexico. "I knew in the back of my mind I could be [in the] top three in the Olympics, but my main goal was to come in the top five," said Weinberger.

Weinberger hung tough with the four-man breakaway - which included himself, Mellouli, Lurz and world champion Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece - when it swam ahead of the pack.

But it was Mellouli who then made his daring move on the lead group by pulling out ahead alone. The 1,500metre pool gold-medallist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics would not be caught.

Not that Weinberger didn't hold out hope.

"When Mellouli went out, I knew it was going to be hard to catch one of the top milers in the world. But I could have come first if I could have stayed on Mellouli's tail," he said.

"But I stayed focused and kept my cool and told myself to keep moving ahead and get a medal. I'm happy with the bronze."

He said he got no sleep the night before the race and passed the time watching cat videos.

At 22, the University of Victoria economics major is now a serious threat to win gold in open water at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

The medal was also a triumph for Weinberger's coach, the veteran Victoria swimming mentor Ron Jacks. "Ron [Jacks] has put me to where I am," said Weinberger. "I was zero in open water just three years ago when I started. Now I'm third in the world."