BARCELONA – Ryan Cochrane won Canada’s first medal in the pool Wednesday at the FINA World Championships, taking bronze in the 800-m freestyle.
Cochrane swam the race in 7:43.70, charging down American Connor Jaeger on the final 100 metres to ensure his third straight world championships medal in the event. The 24-year-old Victoria native won silver at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, and bronze in 2009 in Rome.
China’s Sun Yang took the gold in 7:41.36. Cochrane, who came an agonizing fourth in the 400-m freestyle Sunday, was out-touched by American Michael McBroom by 0.1 seconds for silver.
“The touches aren’t my friend this meet. It was hard getting fourth place. It’s a frustrating place to be but with a world championships anything can happen. There’s so many great competitors that in this 800 I think anybody had a chance at the podium. To know I could claw my way back onto the podium is great and we have the 1,500 to look forward to after this,” Cochrane said.
“A very, very interesting race – five guys in it all the way and it’s not that normal in the distance freestyle. It’s usually a two- or three-horse race but it was interesting – he could have been fifth,” added Randy Bennett, head coach of the national team and Cochrane’s coach at the Victoria Academy of Swimming.
“It’s great racing for him to get his hand on the wall in the third place position and be aware that he had to go in the last 100 as hard as he did, so we’ll take the medal and run with it but you always want a little bit more.”
The medal is Canada’s fifth overall at the championships, and second in swimming. Victoria’s Eric Hedlin won a silver medal in the 5-km open water race earlier in the two-week event, which also features water polo, diving, synchronized swimming and a new high diving discipline.
Competition continues through Sunday, with Martha McCabe of Toronto among the Canadian swimmers in action Thursday. McCabe is looking to follow up on her 2011 world championship bronze medal in the 200-m breaststroke.
Cochrane is back in action in the 1,500-m freestyle heats Saturday. He has back-to-back world championships silver medals in that event, along with the 2012 Olympic silver.
“The field is getting faster and faster and I think one of the mistakes we made (in the 800) is playing into everybody else’s race tactics.,” Cochrane said. “Seeing that the field was so even shows we were all trying hard but maybe not executing the race plans we wanted to. In the 1,500 you can have front-end speed, back-end speed, people who have different technical sides.”
Three other Canadians had evening swims Wednesday.
Audrey Lacroix and Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que. both competed in the women’s 200-m butterfly semifinals. Lacroix missed the final by just 0.05, settling for 10th with a time of 2:07.91. Lacroix, 29 and swimming in her Canadian record sixth worlds, qualified for semifinals in 10th with a heat swim of 2:09.13
“Audrey had a very good swim. When you’re a couple hundredths out of a final, it’s just unfortunate about the place. I’m sure she’s upset and wanted to get into the big final but she did a lot of things very well. She swam a great 200 fly, she controlled herself, and she managed the race really well,” Bennett said.
Savard finished 15th in 2:10.42, after advancing in 14th with a heat time of 2:10.72. It’s been a busy summer for the 20-year-old, who won gold in the 100-m butterfly at the Summer Universiade in Kazan, then topped that with a Canadian record of 57.31 Sunday at worlds.
“If you look at the series of swims that Katerine’s done since Kazan, looking forward to the medley relay (on Sunday) and the World Cups, she’s really positioning herself as one of the premier butterflyers in the world,” Bennett said. “Over the period of time she’s held up really well, so that’s a great swim. I think we’ll get a great split out of her in the medley relay, then we’ll look forward to her ripping it up at the short-course World Cups.”
Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., finished 14th in the 50-m backstroke semifinals. Russell swam a 28.35 after advancing through the morning heats in 16th spot with a time of 28.60.
Earlier in the day, Calgary’s Joel Greenshields represented Canada in the 100-m freestyle, finishing 38th with a time of 50.54. Andrew Ford of Guelph, Ont., rounded out the morning with a 2:01.69 in the 200-m individual medley, good for 23rd place.
Canada has sent a 34-member team (17 men, 17 women) to the world championships. Swimming Canada’s broadcast partner Sportsnet will be airing a one-hour highlight show all eight days of the championships.