VICTORIA – After a year of firsts and lasts, the most accomplished distance swimmer in Canadian history is still learning.
Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane continued to add to his impressive resume in 2014. He defended both his gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, winning the 400-metre freestyle in Canadian record time before capping the July meet with a win in his signature 1,500-m free.
His final Commonwealth Games was the “highest point” of the season for Cochrane, who made his national team debut at the 2006 Games in Melbourne, Australia.
“There were so many more expectations this time around than four years earlier (in Delhi, India) and it comes full circle from the first (senior international) competition I ever went to,” Cochrane said. “It was exciting to see where I’d been the past eight years and how I’ve progressed.”
Cochrane and his Canadian teammates then did a difficult double, flying home briefly before travelling to Gold Coast, Australia, for the Pan Pacific Championships in August. After capping that meet with an 800-m gold medal to go with silver in the 1,500, he returned to action later in the fall, swimming in short-course World Cups in late October and November and the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in December. His bronze medal in the 1,500 at those short-course worlds in Doha, Qatar, was Canada’s first in the event since 2004.
“I’m still learning so much more at 26 than I thought I would. It’s amazing how much you can continue to progress as an athlete,” Cochrane said. “It was drilled in at a young age to make sure you’re prepared to go fast at 20, but I’m amazed at how much better swimming feels now. I’ve always been technical, but my feel on the water, ability to tell where I am in the pool, all those experiences have made it faster. I think I’m a better athlete and consecutively every year I’ve felt that way.
“It’s pretty amazing that at 27, 28, I can have that expectation,” he added. “It’s weird racing 18-year-olds knowing I’m so much older, but I rely on the experience I have and think it will make a huge difference.”
It was a big year for Cochrane in terms of major awards as well. He was named Swimming Canada’s OMEGA Male Swimmer of the Year for the seventh straight time. He also became the first Canadian to be named Swimming World’s American Male Swimmer of the Year, sharing the honour with Tyler Clary of the U.S.
“We always focus on times and places, that’s the extent of our focus we talk about for the entire season. We’re so focused on that, the accolades after that are just a bonus,” Cochrane said. “I think it’s awesome to hear you get extra acknowledgement for what you do, that said we’re always moving on to the next thing, criticizing what you’ve previously done to be better the next time.”
This year is shaping up to be another big one. The Government of Canada has declared 2015 the Year of Sport in Canada, highlighting events such as the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Cochrane and his fellow Team Canada hopefuls also have the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, on their calendars.