Ryan Cochrane was four years old when he moved to the Sunnymede subdivision with his parents and his twin brother Devon.
Cochrane is now 28, and the two-time Olympic medalist swimmer can’t remember the last time it snowed in Saanich, as he’s travelled to warm places to train for most of the winter over the past 10 years. But he remembers the holiday season.
“We were always fortunate because our entire extended family lives here, so while I didn’t appreciate it at the time, as a kid we’d have 20 people at the dinner table at our home,” Cochrane said.
Christmases haven’t really changed, he added, except that as a retired competitive swimmer, he’ll actually be around before the holidays, and not just flying in the day before.
“I have a niece now, so there’s an addition to the family, but the thing for me was I always appreciated Christmas as an excuse to come home,” he said. “You can confirm your friends, and actually see your friends when you get back.”
Twenty-four years later, Cochrane’s parents still live in the same house, while he lives downtown.
“It was a great place to grow up,” Cochrane recalled. “My parents were thinking of having another kid when we moved there [and they did, little brother Liam].”
On a recent tour across dozens of Canadian cities, Cochrane couldn’t help but appreciate Saanich’s various community and recreation centres.
“There’s a lot of small towns, and they don’t have what Saanich has. Their idea of a rec centre is the hockey rink.”
Before Ryan committed fully to swimming, he and Devon spent nearly every weekend at Layritz Park playing soccer in the winter and baseball in the spring.
Whatever Cochrane got for Christmas at a young age, he can’t remember, because by 12 years old it was shadowed by swimming associated gifts.
“It was always a lot of swim trips, which in retrospect I have an appreciation for,” Cochrane said. “Swimming ended up being expensive, but I think my parents thought it was going to be cheap, just a pair of goggles and some lessons. Instead, we travelled a lot, and I got new racing swimsuits, which were up to $500 and worn a handful of times, and under the tree was always new goggles or a cap.”