The Comeback Canadian: Swimmer Tobias Oriwol
Photo: David Gonzales, '93/Stanfordphoto.com
By Sam Scott
An All-American at Stanford, Tobias Oriwol, ’06, is all Canadian in London, representing his country at the Olympics for the second time. In 2008, he finished 15th in the 200-backstroke. He’s been making waves in international competition for more than a decade, since representing Canada in the 2001 World Championships. After taking two years off from competition to attend a master’s program in urban planning at Harvard, Oriwol resumed his quest for an Olympic medal in 2010. He competes in the 200-meter backstroke beginning August 1. He’ll be the one with the Olympic rings tattooed on his torso.
After Beijing, you enrolled at Harvard and stopped competing. Did you swim at all during your master’s program?
I stopped swimming after Beijing with the full intention of never swimming competitively again. I had been swimming and going to school at the same time my whole life and realized at Stanford that I wasn’t doing either as well as I could. After Stanford, I decided to put my education on the backburner and swim full time, so that I could get it out of my system and get my master’s after 2008. I swam about once every two weeks during my time at Harvard, except during my last semester, when I knew I would be returning to swimming again. I was training about three times a week then.
Your website says you came back after realizing you had unfinished business. What drew you back?
The No. 1 reason I decided to return to swimming was because I thought I could do better. The two years off gave me a new perspective on the sport.
With an urban studies degree from Stanford and a master’s in urban planning from Harvard, you appear to have an affinity for cities. Where does London rank on your list of favorite urban centers? Any plans to take advantage of the location before or after you swim?
I visited London for the first time last summer with the Canadian Olympic team. I loved it, even though we were there only [briefly]. I really look forward to exploring it more thoroughly this summer, after I've done my racing. Although I really enjoyed London, my heart belongs to my native cities of Montreal and Toronto, and to Berlin, where my father’s family is from and where I worked [the summer] between my two years at Harvard.
What are your plans after the Games?
I met my girlfriend while we were both living in Boston. She recently graduated with a master’s in interior design from Parsons. We’re going to travel around Europe for a bit after the Games; then I will be joining her in New York and will look for a job, most likely in real estate development.
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