Canadian breaststroking star Richard Funk is on the move, as the 23-year-old has just announced he is saying good-bye to his Ann Arbor, Michigan home of the past 4+ years and joining up with the High Performance Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
A huge college star in his tenure as a Wolverine, Funk was a 9-time NCAA All-American and claimed 7 Big Ten Championship titles. He is the storied Michigan program’s 100y and 200y breaststroke record holder who has been making his own mark on the international swimming scene throughout his Michigan career and now onward.
Funk claimed both the 100m and 200m breaststroke wins at the 2015 Canadian Trials, which garnered the Alberta-native a spot on the Pan American Games and World Championship teams. Capitalizing on his opportunities, Funk earned a silver medal in the 200m breast and a bronze in the 100m breast at Pan Ams in Toronto, while placing 15th overall in the 100m breast at the World Championships in Kazan.
With all his success, as well as the fact that the Canadian Olympic Trials are just 3 months away, in our exclusive interview, Funk explains why his move to Toronto is happening now. Funk also tells SwimSwam how his priceless time as a Michigan Wolverine has shaped him as an athlete and will continue to fuel his drive towards Rio.
Retta: Tell me about the decision to move to Toronto; how and why did this change come about after having been at Michigan over 4 years?
Funk: I left Ann Arbor for a number of reasons. First, I had no visa to stay in America. Second, I had a great opportunity to move to Toronto and train with Ben Titley’s squad at the High Performance Center Ontario. This lets me be around a group where every member is a potential Rio Olympian for my home country. I wanted to come and help my country be the best it can be.
Retta: How difficult was it for you to make the decision, after all you’ve experienced with the maize and blue?
Funk: I had a tremendous time in Ann Arbor where I was able to learn from some of the greatest swimming minds in the world. I made lifelong friendships and had tremendous experiences that shaped me as a person going forward in my swimming career and in life. I’m very sad to leave my best friends behind, but I believe I’ve given everything I had to Michigan and am excited about joining a great squad in Toronto.
Retta: How did the Toronto opportunity with Titley come about for you?
Funk: I was put into Ben’s group the last 2 years of National Teams and really enjoyed his coaching style and energy. Last summer I also did the Mare Nostrum tour and Sette Colli meet in Rome with Ben and his group and I felt like I fit in well. So, when I decided to make a change, I asked if he would take me and, luckily, he agreed.
Retta: You’re already in Toronto, correct?
Funk: Yes, I arrived this week. I finished a training camp with the [Club Wolverine Elite] guys in Florida and kind of used it as a swan song.
Retta: Does it make you nervous to make a coaching change so close to Trials and the Olympics?
Funk: Nope. I’ve done enough work with Ben to know that I trust him completely going forward. It’s a great opportunity for me personally and I’m nothing but excited.
Retta: Tell our readers about the training group you’ll be joining. What do your next couple of months look like?
Funk: Our group consists of Sandrine Mainville, Chantal Van Landeghem, Michelle Williams, Audrey Lacroix, Zack Chetrat. I will always be focusing on the 100 and 200 breaststroke events and, hopefully, get picked for the medley relay. I’ll be in Austin [at the Arena Pro Swim Series], then Speedo Easterns in Montreal and then a sectional meet in Florida, as we’ll be there for a training camp. Then, trials.
Retta: Reflect on your time at Michigan; how would you sum it up in 5 or 6 words?
Funk: I’m truly grateful to the coaches at Michigan for giving me an opportunity. I’m thankful to my upperclassmen for being tremendous leaders, and for my underclassmen for allowing me to lead them. As for summing up the experience in just a few words, that’s tough. I would say, “relentlessly striving to be the leaders and best in every way” and “those who stay will be champions.”
Funk’s next meet, the Arena Pro Swim Series, sees action begin in Austin on January 15th. Funk, complete with his new club moniker “Hpc-Ontario” will be competing in his signature events, the 100m and 200m breaststroke, where he is seeded 6th and 13th, respectively.