Swimming community mourns national coach Bennett


Statement from two-time Olympic medallist Ryan Cochrane:

We’ve lost a mentor, a visionary, and a friend. Randy’s ability to fight for what was right is a tenet we must all continue to uphold. He expected nothing except the absolute best from each and every person he touched.

Coaching was his passion and his life, and I know he has had a profound impact on my life both in and out of sport. I would not be the athlete or person I am today without him. The values and imagination Randy instilled in all of his athletes will live on and that’s a testament to his love of swimming.


VICTORIA – Members of the swimming community in Canada and around the world are mourning the death of longtime national coach Randy Bennett.

The head coach of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria and Director of Island Swimming died late Monday night in Victoria after a battle with cancer. Originally diagnosed as non-small cell lung cancer earlier in the year, the diagnosis was later revised to metastatic malignant melanoma.

The 51-year-old had been head coach of Canada’s top senior national teams at every major international competition since 2009, including the 2012 Olympic Games. He had been head coach at the HPC-Victoria since 2008. HPC-Victoria swimmers and Olympians Hilary Caldwell, Alec Page and Ryan Cochrane all qualified for this summer’s Pan American Games team, as did Jeremy Bagshaw of Island Swimming.

“He was a tremendous example of a dedicated coach,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. “He loved our sport, he cherished his athletes and he proudly represented his family and Canada. He was a man of remarkable courage and strength of character. His achievements are too numerous to name but what stands out most is that he inspired others to achieve and they did. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”

Bennett helped Canadian swimmers achieve medal performances at many international meets, including Cochrane’s bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, both in the men’s 1,500-m freestyle. More recently Bennett’s swimmers delivered all four of the Canadian swimming medals at the 2013 FINA World Championships. In addition to two from Cochrane in the 800-m and 1,500-m freestyle, Caldwell emerged with a bronze in women’s 200-m backstroke. Eric Hedlin, meanwhile, burst onto the international open water swimming scene with a silver medal in the 5-km.

Caldwell followed that up with a bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where Cochrane defended his double gold medals in the 400-m and 1,500-m free. Cochrane also took gold in the 800-m and silver in the 1,500-m at last year’s Pan Pacific Championships. Over the years, Bennett had great successes working with national team stalwarts such as Marianne Limpert, Rick Say, Julia Wilkinson and Mike Mintenko.

“Randy was always focused on high performance in everything he did,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “He will be greatly missed by all in swimming. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Bennett is survived by his wife Lesley and two teenage sons, Brett and Kyle. Swimming Canada is in contact with the family and will share further relevant information as appropriate. A plan is already in place to support the family and the athletes, which includes grief counseling. Canadian Sport Institute Pacific Talent Development Coach Ryan Mallette continues to oversee the senior swimmers, while Swimming Canada IST Director Dr. Allan Wrigley heads up a strong support team.

“Randy faced cancer, malignant melanoma, with the same tenacity with which he coached,” said national team physician Steve Keeler, who had been acting as Bennett’s primary physician throughout this situation, working alongside a team of specialists. “Despite the rapid progression of his disease Randy remained focused on his family and the athletes he coached. His strength through this journey was impressive.”