VICTORIA – Ryan Cochrane’s smile might be wider than usual at the Canadian Swimming Trials April 2-5 in Victoria.
The 25-year-old will be on the verge of earning his degree in psychology at the University of Victoria. To be part of that graduating class is certainly worth celebrating, alongside his other accomplishments as Canada’s most successful distance swimmer.
“I’m counting down the days until graduation,” said Cochrane. “With the trials on the horizon as well it’s been a bit of madness to get this all finished and done.”
Cochrane needed about seven years to complete the degree, which will hang alongside the two Olympic medals, six world championship medals, and countless other awards he earned as a student-athlete.
“I don’t think you can really do it all at the same time,” said Cochrane. “It would be great to finish in four years but time management can get really difficult. I’m happy with the choices I made and I’m proud that I was able to produce great results in the pool and finish school in a timely fashion.”
Of course the swimming-school combo, as is the case in several other sports, is a reality that many high performance athletes must face.
“You have to know what your priorities are,” said Cochrane. “And you need a plan of what you want to do or else everything in the end is going to suffer. You can still go to school and swim really well but you have to stick with the choices you initially made.”
And this stretch run to the graduation podium hasn’t seemed to hamper his preparations for the Canadian Swimming Trials. Those trials will determine the Canadian teams for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships.
Cochrane posted strong results on the U.S. Grand Prix circuit including a gold medal last month in the 400-m freestyle.
“It hasn’t been an off year in the pool by any means despite the heavy course load,” he said. “The training has been difficult but we set a program in the fall that was simpler in terms of the distances we were doing and that really helped. And out of that I saw pretty good times come out for my sprinting. My 200-m and 400-m freestyles have really picked up.”
Even with no world championships or Olympics this year, Cochrane says it is still an important season.
“The Commonwealth Games are exciting because you represent your country at a high profile event for Canadians,” he said. “And with the Games back-to-back with Pan Pacs it’s going to make for some interesting racing this summer.”
It’s been almost a full decade that Cochrane has maintained himself among the very best in his sport. His career may be winding down but expect Cochrane to put the pedal to the metal harder than ever in his final bid to become an Olympic champion.
“There’s such a small amount of time I have left in my career that I want to make sure that every race is worthwhile.”