Brenda and Andrew Ford

Next month he’ll be back at school. And by early October, Guelph’s Andrew Ford will be back in the U of G pool, stroking for Rio de Janeiro.

Following his first-ever Olympic Games in London this past summer – including a semi-final race alongside American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte – Ford will resume day-in-day-out training this fall with his eye on the 2016 Games to be held in Brazil.

Even before that, he’s got another goal in mind.

Already the fastest Canadian in the 200-metre individual medley (IM), Ford hopes to beat the Canadian record of 1:59.19, perhaps as soon as next year’s world championships in Spain.

At this summer’s Games, he notched a personal best of 2:00.28 and finished fifteenth overall.

Was he nervous about lining up in London with Phelps and Lochte? Ford shakes his head. “To be in the semi-final with them in the Olympics, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was proud of myself, I didn’t feel nervous. I saw it as a reward for all the hard work.”

Nerves had played in last spring, when the Guelph swimmer needed to win a spot on the Canadian team during Olympic trials held in Montreal.

“I was never so nervous in my entire life.” Battling a chest infection, he had just missed qualifying for the 400-metre IM earlier in the week. Rallying in the 200 IM, he reached the wall first to earn his London berth.

His goal in London was to qualify for semi-finals. “I wanted to show that I was supposed to be there. A second swim at the Olympics is a good way to show you’re serious about it.”

Ford, 23, trains with the Guelph Marlins Aquatic Club. Having begun swimming as a preschooler, Ford joined the Marlins at age five.

He has worked with coach Don Burton for 12 years. “He knows how to motivate me. He almost foresees what I’m capable of,” says Ford.

“He knew I had Olympic potential five or six years ago.”

He trains 10 times a week for about 30 hours in all, including dry-land exercises. Besides his work ethic and determination, Ford says, he relies on something else to keep him logging the miles in the pool six days a week.

“There’s a line between people who like to win and people who hate to lose. I absolutely hate to lose.”

Back home in Guelph a few days after the closing ceremonies in London, Ford planned to take a month off from training. He will resume training in early October.

He will also head back to the classroom to resume his psychology studies. He had gotten about halfway through his degree in 2010 before putting school on hold in order to train full-time.

In 2009, he had missed qualifying for the world championships in Rome by seven-tenths of a second. That convinced him that he needed to retool. “We needed to work smarter,” says Ford, who expects eventually to become a sports psychologist or coach.

“It’s like a problem with a solution. You have to figure out how to approach it.”

While in London, Ford also watched the bronze-medal game played by the Canadian women’s soccer team, and saw Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set a new 200-metre world record.

Also in London this summer were Ford’s parents, Rob and Brenda.

Brenda Ford is senior manager, finance and administration, in the Health Sciences Centre at the Ontario Veterinary College.

Her favourite moment in London was watching her son march onto the deck before that semi-final. “That was Andrew’s goal, and he achieved it,” she says.

London had caught Olympic fever, says Brenda, who visited Canada Olympic House and checked out the Olympic rings adorning Tower Bridge. “It was an electric environment.”

As with other Canadian Olympic moms, Brenda received a $1,000 Visa card from Procter & Gamble’s “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign. What does she plan to do with the money? Glancing across her desk at Andrew, she says, “I’m buying groceries for the boy.”

Over at the campus pool, a Union Jack has hung in the rafters for several years. Ford expected that the flag would be replaced by late summer with the Brazilian flag. Referring to the Rio Games, he says, “We’re about 1,500 days out.”