Canadian swimmer Ryan Cochrane and the fickle finger of fate

The B.C. native is philosophical about today’s near miss in the 400m Freestyle, says his coach


(Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images)

Four years ago in Beijing, after Ryan Cochrane surprised pretty much everyone but himself and won a bronze medal for Canada in the men’s 1500m freestyle, his coach told us a story. The first time he knew the kid was a champion, said Randy Bennett, was when he was about 13. He thought the teen was slacking off during practice one day so he assigned him a crushing punishment: the water equivalent of endless wind sprints.

The workload was excessive. And as Bennett watched the kid churn through the water, he started to feel a little guilty. He even tried to catch his charge’s attention, but was ignored. And when an exhausted Cochrane finally pulled himself from the pool, he approached to apologize. What he received for his troubles an extended middle finger. Then the 13-year-old threw in an obscenity and stalked off the pool deck. “And that’s when I knew,” Bennett explained, “that Ryan was special.”

It seems like Cochrane is going to have to draw on that same sort of anger again in London.

After squeaking into the 400m Freestyle final this morning—winning his heat, but turning in the eighth fastest time—the now 23-year-old was dealt a low blow; denied a chance at a medal because of a refereeing flip-flop. During the morning session, poolside officials had disqualified Taehwan Park of South Korea, the reigning world and Olympic champion for a false start. But his team immediately launched an appeal, and after a FINA jury reviewed the available evidence, they reinstated Park, who had the fourth fastest time, bumping Cochrane out of the final.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bennett told the media during a hastily arranged press conference. “But there’s nothing you can do about it. You can bang your head against the wall or go forward.”

By all accounts that’s what Cochrane had decided to do. The 1500m Freestyle—his best race—will be held on the final day of the swimming competition, Aug. 4, and the Victoria, B.C. native has already begun to prepare.

In the 400m Freestyle, Cochrane ultimately finished ninth with a time of 3:47.26—just 0.01 seconds behind the eighth place finisher David Carry of Great Britain. He was philosophical about the near miss, says his coach, placing the blame on himself for not swimming faster in the heats. And maybe he was just a little bit angry. Which when it comes to Ryan Cochrane, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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