BARCELONA – Ryan Cochrane made history in the pool as FINA World Championships wrapped up Sunday in Barcelona.
Cochrane won his third straight silver medal in the 1,500-metre freestyle, finishing 1.33 seconds behind China’s Sun Yang in a time of 14:42.48. It’s the sixth career world championships medal for the Victoria native, surpassing Brent Hayden for the most all-time among Canadians.
“To have six medals is something I always dreamed of when I was a young kid getting into the sport,” Cochrane said. “But that being said I always want better. I always want more and I think that’s what drives me every day.”
The 24-year-old, who won bronze in the 800-m freestyle earlier in the week, also became just the second man in world championships history to win three straight medals in both distances. Only Australian legend Grant Hackett has achieved that level of consistency since the 800 was added to the program in 2001. Cochrane has also medalled in the 1,500 at the last two Olympics, taking bronze in 2008 in Beijing and following up with silver at last summer’s London Games.
“It’s been just like clockwork,” said Team Canada Head Coach Randy Bennet, Cochrane’s coach at the Victoria Academy of Swimming. “Once he achieved top three in the world he hasn’t been out of it for six years now. It’s a really significant spot to be in and I think that’s a testament to him and his willingness to do the work associated with that level of swimming.”
Cochrane had hoped to win three medals at worlds but came just short, finishing fourth in the 400-m freestyle earlier in the week.
“This week was filled with ups and downs. I had expectations of myself that weren’t met earlier on but I was pretty proud of my races later in the week so I’m going to take that going forward,” he said. “Just to get on the podium twice is fantastic but I think I have that many more dreams of being that much better next time.”
The two-horse race saw Cochrane overtake Yang, the reigning Olympic and world champion, at the 250-m mark. Yang jockeyed back in front 100 m later, but Cochrane was in front again at the next turn. The Canadian held a slim lead or was even with Yang at every turn but couldn’t extend his lead to more than 0.30 seconds. Then at 1400 m Yang turned it on for a final sprint that kept the gold just out of Cochrane’s reach.
“Every time I hit the water I want to get first. I want to get the gold medal and I’m constantly developing my race tactics,” Cochrane said. “I think today I was comfortable with going out hard. It can be devastating if you go out too hard but I felt good and I felt strong. I need to go a little bit earlier to hopefully beat him next time but it’s a positive nonetheless.”
“It was a great race, just the strength of character that he showed to have a go,” Bennett added. “He kept on trying and plugging away, it wasn’t just racing to get into the medals, he actually went to win. That’s one of the things that makes Ryan a great swimmer – there was no give there. I think that kind of mindset is how you end up on top of the podium and knowing Ryan as well as I do, I don’t think there will be any give, ever.”
Canada’s final representative at the worlds was the women’s 4×100-m medley relay. The team of Hilary Caldwell, Katerine Savard, Martha McCabe and Chantal van Landeghem finished seventh at 4:00.19, an improvement from their morning effort that left them less than four seconds out of the medals.
“It’s not like they were in a different time zone. They’re very close to where they need to be,” Bennett said. “It’s a good group of young women getting up and having a go. The really important thing is that they got up and they were better than they were in the morning. They really acquitted themselves quite well.”
Canada sent a 34-member team (17 men, 17 women) to the world championships. Of those 34, 16 (10 men, six women) will be going on to compete at short-course FINA World Cup events in Eindhoven, Netherlands Wednesday and Thursday, and Berlin next Saturday and Sunday.