KAZAN, Russia – Canada doubled its medal total as both Ryan Cochrane and Emily Overholt captured bronze to wrap up FINA World Championships Sunday in Kazan, Russia.
Ryan Cochrane earned Canada’s third bronze medal of the championships thanks to a time of 14:51.08 in the men’s 1,500-m freestyle. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri won in a European record 14:39.67, followed by Connor Jaeger of Fair Haven, N.J., in an American record 14:41.20. Defending champion Sun Yang of China was a surprise non-starter.
Combined with his 400-m bronze from earlier in the meet, that brings Cochrane’s all-time total to eight, best in Canadian history. It was the fourth straight medal in the event for the 26-year-old Cochrane, an incredible feat of consistency and longevity accomplished only by Australian legend Grant Hackett.
“I’m really happy to get my fourth medal in a row. It’s obviously not the colour I wanted and it was a bit of an open field,” said Cochrane, silver at the last three world championships and 2012 Olympics. “My times from all year have gotten better in my training. It didn’t quite translate here but the ultimate goal is the Olympics. I’ve worked 10 years for that and I can take the positives. It’s great to get on the podium again, it’s not what I wanted, but it kind of incites some extra fire within for the Olympic year.”
Cochrane’s effort capped a long year of highs and lows, including the death of his longtime coach Randy Bennett in April and a double gold medal performance at last month’s Pan Am Games in Toronto.
“I just think with our Pan Ams and then into world championships it was just a long go. I don’t want to make excuses, I think Paltrinieri is the one to beat for next year and it’s going to be a very hard-fought battle for that medal. But I really think I can expect best times next year with a simpler schedule,” Cochrane said.
The Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria swimmer dedicated his medal to Bennett, and reflected on what he and his teammates, including Pan Am Games gold medallist Hilary Caldwell, have gone through.
“Indirectly I think it’s been really hard. We went right back to work after Randy passed away because that’s what he’d want us to do. I think we did everything possible to be the best athletes we could be in the water. We really pushed ourselves but that being said the emotional toll at the end of the year was tough,” Cochrane said.
The veteran swimmer and team leader said he especially missed Bennett’s presence after a surprise miss in the 800-m freestyle, when he finished 10th to end a streak of three straight medals.
“That’s someone I usually lean on so that was really difficult. It took a lot of energy to try to right myself. I think we’ve developed these relationships with our coach Ryan Mallette now and this kind of process is that much more encouraging for next year because we know how to lean on each other and trust each other more,” Cochrane said.
From veteran to newcomer, 17-year-old Overholt followed Cochrane with a blistering Canadian record of 4:32.52 to take bronze in the women’s 400-m individual medley
“I knew I had to be at my best,” said the world championships rookie. “Making my first world final was a huge step. I didn’t have anything to lose and I’m really happy with how it went.”
Hungary’s “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu was first in 4:30.39, followed by American Maya DiRado (4:31.71).
“I knew it was going to be a close race and I didn’t really know if I had a chance. As soon as I got in I kind of went for it and saw I was in third place. It’s very exciting and unexpected,” said Overholt, who erased all memory of her disqualification at last month’s Pan Am Games.
Even Cochrane was impressed: “It’s one of the best times in the world and it’s super encouraging to see her on the podium here. A medal a year out of the Olympics means only good things for next year.”
In other evening action, Chantal Van Landeghem set a Canadian record for the second straight night to move up to fifth in the women’s 50-m freestyle. The Winnipeg native’s time of 24.39 was just 0.08 behind bronze medallist Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden. Australian Bronte Campbell won in 24.12 followed by Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands.
“It’s a great way to finish off the meet. I’m super happy with it. It’s a best time so I can’t complain and it’s also exciting that there’s some things I can work on to improve,” Van Landeghem said.
A night earlier, she helped Canada to bronze in the first ever 4×100-m mixed freestyle relay. Her other results included a ninth place (by 0.01) in the 100-m freestyle and fifth place in the women’s 4×100-m free relay.
“I think there are a few disappointments but overall I’m really happy with it. I’m excited to get back to work and start working towards Rio next year,” Van Landeghem said.
The 21-year-old will be taking the upcoming Olympic year off from the University of Georgia to focus on long-course training at the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Ontario under coach Ben Titley.
Finally, the women’s 4×100-m medley relay turned in a strong effort. Dominique Bouchard, Rachel Nicol, Katerine Savard and Sandrine Mainville combined for a time of 3:57.96 to finish sixth. That was just 0.09 second slower than the Canadian record from the “suit” era of 2009, and included a personal best leadoff leg of 59.80 from backstroker Bouchard.