Canadian swimmer Ryan Cochrane's career is coming down to a "lot of lasts"
Monday, Mar 31, 2014 04:15 pm
Ryan Cochrane's illustrious swimming career, he says, has come down to a "lot of lasts."
He'll compete at the Canadian swimming trials this weekend in Victoria to make the team for what will be his last Commonwealth Games.
Next summer will mark his last world championships. The 2016 Rio Games will be his last Olympics.
"The four years between Beijing and London (Olympics) went by like a whirlwind and I think the older you get the faster those years go by, so I'm just trying to make sure I make the most of all these last chances I get," Cochrane said. "It's kind of narrowing down ... it's an exciting prospect but you also have to be ready for the final chances you have at representing yourself and putting all this work you worked so hard for to good use."
The 25-year-old from Vancouver could eventually retire as Canada's most decorated swimmer, but for now he's soaking in every moment.
"I think living in the moment is one of the greatest motivators because you make sure that you're not just head down, going through all these amazing things," Cochrane said from San Diego before flying to Victoria.
"I think throughout my first couple of years, that's exactly what happened because I was so focused on what my goal was at that time. But I think you can be focused and also enjoy what you're going through.
"The nerves can get the best of you sometimes and the Olympics is such an exciting experience but it's also terrifying at the same time. I think with experience, that kind of calms those nerves a little bit and that's when you start to just enjoy all these great opportunities and all these great experiences that you go through."
The trials run Wednesday through Saturday at the Saanich Commonwealth Place Pool and serve not only as the selection meet for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but for the Pan Pacific championships, and several junior events.
Cochrane, a six-time world championship medallist, is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in the 400- and 1,500-metre freestyle.
Coming off a 2013 season that saw Cochrane win silver and bronze at the world aquatic championships in Barcelona, he considers this a bit of a down season. With no world championships or Olympics this summer, it's a good season to try new things in training.
And so the Olympic silver and bronze medallist cut down on his mileage, which freed up some time to finish his psychology degree at the University of Victoria. While his heavy fall training used to see him log 80 kilometres a week in the pool, he reduced it to between 50 and 60 this season.
"It was a different type of training," he said. "I'm generally used to doing the hard distance stuff where you just kind of keep going and going, and just try to work as hard as you can. Just more of a different focus. So instead of being beaten down every day by doing metres upon metres, it's more of a specific sprint-based focus and something I haven't done in my 15-year career. So it's nice to try something new."
While it may be a refreshing change, it's also "a little scary," said Cochrane.
"It's a bit intimidating if you've done something for 10 years and it's always worked, to change it," said the six-foot-four swimmer. "That being said, I've had great results, but I've always wanted more and you kind of have to take those chances to be able to better yourself."
So far he believes the new approach is paying off. He won the 400-metre freestyle at the U.S. Grand Prix in February in Orlando. The trials this weekend will be a good benchmark for where he's at.
Cochrane is the veteran on a Canadian team that saw several retirements following the 2012 London Olympics, most notably Brent Hayden, a world champion in the 100 metres.
"We have a good mixture of established athletes on the team such as Ryan, to younger athletes who are making that transition," said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada's high performance director.
He mentioned Katarine Savard and Noemie Thomas, fifth and seventh respectively in the 100-metre butterfly at last summer's world championships, as two rising young stars.
"It's a team in transition still with some world-class athletes like Ryan."
Cochrane, meanwhile, said he's counting the days until he walks across the stage at UVIC, joking that it "wasn't a four-year degree, it was a seven-year degree."
It's been difficult to balance the two, but he's become better at it over the years.
"The older you get, the more you know yourself, and what you're capable of time-managing," Cochrane said. "The main thing I learned through university was how to learn, and what works best for you, and how to study and how to time manage, and I think that's a skill that really is the most profound thing I learned at school and it's something you can really apply to the rest of your life."