Ann Arbor-Based Swimmers Criss-Cross the Globe to Compete

July 24, 2014

By Michael Kasiborski

Scotland. Germany. Australia. Japan. It is a veritable "bucket list" of dream-worthy trips for travelers.

It just so happens that many Ann Arbor-based swimmers (yes, that Ann Arbor -- the one tabbed the "Top Swim City" in the nation by USA Swimming and Speedo), will be living the dream, visiting each country over the next few weeks.

Take July's itinerary for Miguel Ortiz, the former NCAA champion for the University of Michigan men's swimming and diving team who currently trains with Club Wolverine: Ann Arbor Madrid Berlin.

He recently arrived in Spain, to join his teammates on the Spanish national team, where they will train ahead of the European Swimming Championships in Berlin (Aug. 18-24).

While Ortiz is a singular talent in the pool, his global pursuit of swimming glory is not uncommon around the pool deck of Canham Natatorium. There are currently 16 swimmers with ties to Ann Arbor who will be doing some globetrotting this summer to race on the world's biggest stages.

Ortiz is one of five professional swimmers with Club Wolverine who already have their tickets punched for competitions like the European Championships, Asian Games and Pan Pacific Championships this summer. In addition, there are six current Michigan swimmers who will be swimming for their countries at international meets. When you add in the five incoming freshmen who are already on rosters for international events, the global reach of Michigan swimming is evident. And by the way, USA Swimming has not filled out its roster for Pan-Pacs yet, that will happen after US Nationals (Aug. 6-10), so even more Maize and Blue could be wearing the Red, White and Blue (Sean Ryan, a U-M All-American, already earned a spot on Team USA for open water swimming).

Michigan's prestigious swimming and diving programs have long been a draw for international swimmers. One of the earliest success stories is Garnet Ault. The Canadian came to Michigan from North Bay, Ontario, at the height of the Roaring 20's and went on to win an Olympic bronze medal for Canada in 1928. But Ann Arbor is not just an importer of talented swimmers and divers, it also exports them out each summer with an emphasis on international events.

"Racing internationally is always a lot of fun," said rising senior Richard Funk.

Funk hails from Edmonton, Alberta, and will represent his native Canada at the Commonwealth Games (July 23-Aug. 3) in Glasgow, Scotland, and at the Pan-Pac Championships (Aug. 21-25) in Gold Coast, Australia.

"The Commonwealth Games will be a great opportunity to showcase the months of hard work we've done against some grizzly veterans of swimming," said Funk. "I'm very excited to compete, and to do it with several teammates and training partners there is icing on the cake."

Racing internationally is always a lot of fun.
-- Richard Funk

As Funk so sweetly alluded to, Michigan and Club Wolverine swimmers will be popping up at meets in clusters. Although nationality will divide many of them this summer, there is still a special team feeling that comes from the bond of long hours in the pool together.

Ortiz says that esprit de corps is a special component of his training. He sees it as getting the best of the both worlds: he can operate as an independent professional and still surround himself with the vitality that comes with training for the Club Wolverine team alongside a collegiate program.

"After four years of collegiate swimming, I've learned that a team can help you improve, and I am blessed to be able to continue training in that environment in my professional life," said Ortiz.

He also has a built-in teammate who has traveled the globe with him: younger brother Bruno Ortiz is a rising senior who is also a member of the Spanish national team.

"Together we'll compete at the European Championships," said Miguel, the elder Ortiz. "I'm fortunate to have him as a teammate no matter where I go."

Even where bloodlines do not factor in, the Club Wolverine-Michigan bond works wonders. Geoff Cheah swam collegiately for Stanford and will represent Hong Kong at both the prestigious Asian Games and the Pan-Pac Championships. He trained with Club Wolverine leading up to both events.

"To have the opportunity to be a part of Club Wolverine and train for such occasions alongside everyone -- both varsity and pros -- has been a special experience for me so far," said Cheah. "(They) could not have done any better to adopt me as one of their teammates in our pursuit for excellence and fulfilling our potential."

Cheah believes the camaraderie and training have set him up for some great swims this summer.

"I don't think I've really seen more support and cheering for one another that I've seen (in Ann Arbor)," he said. "The journey to the big swim at the end of the season is probably the most important part of the whole process, and it is exciting to have such a positive environment created by everyone who is a part of it."

Cheah is one of several swimmers with Ann Arbor ties who will be pulling off a double dip this summer with his two big international events. Funk will be doing the same along with Canadian teammate Marni Oldershaw, a rising junior on the women's swimming and diving team.

Oldershaw (left) puts on a happy face as she arrives in Glasgow

"We've just recently gone through a very tough couple of weeks of training, and I am coming off of it feeling well prepared," said Oldershaw. The All-American comes from a long lineage of Canadian Olympians, and embraces the work to race on some of swimming's biggest stages.

"I am so pleased that this program remains consistent throughout the whole year and really embraces international competition during the summers," she said. "I am so excited to represent the maple leaf this summer."

For Oldershaw and her U-M comrades, they have the duty and privilege of representing their homelands and their adopted home of Ann Arbor. And for these swimmers, the trips around the globe are part of the journey, not the destination.

Commonwealth Games (July 24-Aug. 3) in Glasgow Scotland
Dylan Bosch (South Africa)
Richard Funk (Canada)
Marni Oldershaw (Canada)
Evan White (Canada)^
Samantha Yeo (Singapore)^

European Championships (Aug. 18-25) in Berlin, Germany
Anders Nielsen (Denmark)
Bruno Ortiz (Spain)
Miguel Ortiz (Spain)*

Youth Olympics (Aug. 17-22) in Nanjing, China
Hannah Moore (USA)^
PJ Ransford (USA)^
Clara Smiddy (USA)^
Samantha Yeo (Singapore)^

Pan Pacific Championships (Aug. 21-25) in Gold Coast, Australia
George Bovell (Trinidad and Tobago)*
Geoff Cheah (Hong Kong)*
Richard Funk (Canada)
Junya Koga (Japan)*
Claudia Lau (Hong Kong)
Marni Oldershaw (Canada)
Sean Ryan (USA)*
Evan White (Canada)^

^denotes incoming Michigan swimmer
*denotes Club Wolverine swimmer