Ryan Cochrane shrugs off heartbreak
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
Ryan Cochrane after swimming in heat 2 in the men's 400-metre freestyle at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in London, England, July 28, 2012. (JORGE SILVA/Reuters)
LONDON - Ryan Cochrane thought he swam the perfect prelim.
He listened to his coaches' instructions to win his Saturday morning heat and was ready to see the rest of it fall into place.
He got to the wall first during that preliminary for the 400-metre freestyle and seemed to do it the right way. He conserved energy early and finished strong and believed in his heart he had plenty left in the tank for later.
In the afternoon, he tweeted about going for gold and getting the Olympics started off in style for Team Canada. He told his coach he had got rid of his nerves and could trim a couple of seconds off his time.
And then four hours before he got the chance, instead of chasing the country's first medal, Cochrane was dealt his first dose of heartbreak.
After South Korean officials successefully appealed the false start disqualification of Park Tae-hwan, who ultimately lived up to his status as a medal favourite by capturing a silver in Saturday night's final, Cochrane became the odd man out.
Even though he finished first in his eight, the top eight fastest times qualify for the final and in one ruling, Cochrane went from eighth to ninth, just a hundredth of a second too slow.
"Ryan's direction from me this morning was to get up and win your heat and he obviously did that," Cochrane's coach, Randy Bennett, said. "Usually that's good enough in seeded heats. You bang your head against the wall. I was surprised because I left the pool thinking he was in.
"He's out of the final by 1/100ths of a second, just like in Beijing. He's not happy he is not swimming in the final but he is moving forward."
If the coach was surprised, imagine what Cochrane was feeling? His big event is the 1,500-metre free, a gruelling test in which he won the bronze medal four years ago in Beijing and will attempt to improve upon next weekend. But the 23-year-old believed he had reached contender status in the 400 and was itching to prove it.
Though they had hours to digest the situation made by the FINA, the sport's governing body, Canadian officials seemed fine with the protocol involved in Park's disqualification and subsequent reinstatement. They also seem to believe the setback won't throw Cochrane off as he begins to focus on the 1,500 event.
"He's tough as nails," Bennett said. "It's a bump and he'll be fine. I think he's probably more philosophical about the swim than anything ... it needed to be faster,
The positive, of course, is that Cochrane still has the 1,500 ahead of him, the race that has been his prime area of focus in training and one of the three medals Canadian officials have targetted from the pool.
"Obviously placing ninth by 1/100th of a second has been a challenging thing to overcome," Cochrane tweeted after the final was raced on Saturday night. "I'm not putting all my energy into this mile!"
Both Bennett and Swimming Canada CEO and national coach Pierre Lafontaine were measured in their reaction to the decision though the latter did suggest that at some point, FINA should consider using enhanced technology to better evaluate false starts.
"(Timing company) Omega came up with a new system now of underwater cameras and a situation like this will certainly allow the discussion on why not have videos now to check on everything," LaFontain said.
"I think that would probably be the next step for our sport and probably be a good step."
Not that it would have done anything for Cochrane.