A Delta Olympian in Rio
When speaking with Tsawwassen Olympian Markus Thormeyer, it’s easy to forget I’m with one of the best swimmers on the planet. It’s true that his six-foot-five height and athletic build hints at his abilities, but his soft-spoken and humble words betray no hint of ego.
Markus, who turned 19 just four days after the Rio 2016 Olympics ended, represented Team Canada in the 4×100 freestyle relay, coming seventh in the world.
It was the culimination of a long journey that included seven years of training with the Winskill Dolphins here in Tsawwassen, a program that has turned out several world class swimmers. One of Markus’ team Canada teammates in Rio, Noemie Thomas of Richmond, also trained at Winskill for years.
“A lot of outstanding swimmers have come from this program because even though we don’t have the best facility and all the top equipment, when I trained here I felt like it was such a small, tight-knit group and community that the coach could really work one on one with you,” explains Markus.
The Olympic Dream was something he says he could scarcely imagine five years ago, but that all changed as he trained harder and started placing well at competitions. At the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games he won a bronze medal in 4x100m freestyles. But amazingly it was a loss that really bolstered his confidence.
Suffering from food poisoning, Markus came seventh in the 100m backstroke and was last to leave the pool. To his shock, he received a strong ovation from the crowd.
“That was a low moment, but the whole country, or at least everyone in the stands and I’m sure a lot of people who know me in Tsawwassen, they still have my back,” says Markus. “They weren’t looking for an amazing performance, they were just supporting the athletes.”
Surprisingly, Markus says he wasn’t actually that nervous at the Olympics because he’d already made his dreams come true back in April by qualifying. It was trying to get on Team Canada that made him so nervous he couldn’t sleep at night.
“When I made the team it was like a huge weight was off my chest and I felt like I had no worries. Before it was like, oh no, what if I don’t make the team? And then after it was, I’m going to go to Rio and do my best and perform my fastest.”
Ready to take on the 4x100m freestyle Olympic final with these 3 beautiful studs 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/Q5zIbHumDr
— Markus Thormeyer (@MarkusThor2) August 7, 2016
There were so many amazing moments in the whirlwind 16-day Olympic experience in Rio that it’s hard for Markus to highlight the best one. Each day seemed to top the last.
Brazilians, he says, know how to celebrate and party and “everything was over the top”. They would show up to events and shower the athletes with cheers regardless of who was competing.
“It was the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard in a pool. When I was swimming I’d just pretend they were cheering for me and that kind of hyped me up,” says Markus, laughing.
Canada wasn’t projected to make the podium, so when the team qualified fifth for the final race it was a huge confidence boost. Markus says he remembers the quiet moments in the ready room prior to the final as the four of them (Markus with Santos Condorelli, Yuri Kisil, and Evan van Moerkerke) psyched themselves up.
“We were all there for each other in that moment. Then when we walked out the whole crowd went wild and I looked over into the stands and all the way at the top, way in the back I saw this blob of red going crazy. And I thought, yeah, that’s my team.”
Markus did perform his fastest, as he promised himself, with a personal best of 48.29 seconds.
“Swimming’s an individual sport but knowing that you have not only your teammates but the whole country watching and hoping you’ll do the best you can do… that’s really special.”