Since the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Saanich’s Ryan Cochrane hadn’t been hiding his retirement from swimming competition.
However, the 28-year-old two-time Olympic medallist and Claremont secondary product made it official Tuesday. Cochrane opened up about the highs and lows of his career, and what’s next, while entertaining the local media scrum on his home turf, the pool deck of Saanich Commonwealth Place.
“How do you just say I’m leaving [swimming] forever, I don’t think that will ever happen,” Cochrane said. “[Eventually] if I could take a leadership role within Swimming Canada that would be fantastic, hopefully to help influence our men’s team do even better in the future.”
For now, Cochrane is excited to embark on his career [he majored in pyschology at the University of Victoria) with Cordova Bay software company Synchronous ERP, which provides accounting and business applications in the cloud.
“I can’t wait to make some bigger strides, when for the last eight years I was going after tenths of a second, which seems insane when you look back on it,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane finishes having been named Canadian male swimmer of the year eight times in a row. He won Olympic silver (2012) and bronze (2008), both in the freestyle 1,500-metre. He’s a four-time gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games, in the 1,500m and 400m. He also has a drawer full of FINA World Championship long-course medals in the 1,500m and 800m, not to mention Pan Pacific and national gold medals.
In 2011 Cochrane added to his resume as a UVic Vike. An easy favourite at nationals, he swam away with the men’s 1,500m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m freestyle races and bronze in the men’s 400m IM.
By his own admission, Cochrane will never live his performance in Rio de Janeiro down. As a 26 and 27 year old he was making strides, even after the unexpected death of his mentor and coach Randy Bennett. But in Rio, Cochrane was “utterly gutted” to finish sixth overall in his speciality, the 1,500m free.
“This summer I didn’t get the personal results I was looking for but I was excited to use my skills to lead the team and help younger swimmers,” Cochrane said. “Now I’m excited to use those skills [at Synchronous] as a lot of the skills we learn as athletes transfer to the real world.”
Despite putting a world of pressure on himself to win gold in Rio, Cochrane was relieved afterward by the support of Canadians.
“I thought I was going to be eviscerated after the Rio Games and I was ready for that but instead Canadians were so polite and generous with their support.” Cochrane said. “[Rio] was a low [and] there was different races and different moments that I missed out on, I look back on ninth places at the Olympics, those were really hard.”
While missing out on a third Olympic medal was among the biggest lows of his career, nothing was as hard as the loss of Bennett.
“When you lose a mentor it’s hard to find the words,” Cochrane said. “My and Randy’s relationship was ups and downs, but losing him and not having him for this transition, and to rely on him is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with. I’m so thankful that I have a good support system.”