Warm-up on high heat

GERRY MODDEJONGE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

He might only be treating it like a warm-up for upcoming nationals, but that didn't stop Ryan Cochrane from breaking a 19-year-old Canadian record during his first ever race in Edmonton.

The Olympic bronze medallist recorded a time of 7:46.17 in the 800-metre freestyle yesterday during his first heat of the 2009 Speedo Western Canadian swimming championships at the Kinsmen Sports Centre.

The performance surpassed the 7:47.07 record set by Calgary's Gary Vander Meulen in 1990. And it's on par for the Olympic time he recorded in Beijing last year in the 1,500-metre.

"I was really happy with it. I haven't swam a short-course 800 in a long time now," said Cochrane. "I like the 800 more than the 1,500 because you don't really need the training behind it. It's more of a sprint.

Cochrane is scheduled to run a gamut of races, including the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 m events along with a couple of relays at the western championships.

"It was nice to just put on a good swim and start the meet off right and then even if it goes downhill, it's still a good way to start, said Cochrane.

In September, the 20-year-old injured his left knee mishandling some luggage.

"I bruised a bone, so it's still king of recuperating," said Cochrane, who had to adjust his training regimen and is limited to freestyle events.

"At least it was September and not like August 1. It's a bit frustrating but the best time for an injury, I guess."

That has given him time to recover while he travels the country speaking to groups about his Olympic journey, as well as holding training camps.

"It was great to be able to talk about my experiences. It's so easy for me to talk about it and get kids motivated and get more kids into the sport would be great," said Cochrane. "Getting into 2012, we need that extra base of younger swimmers."

Cochrane admitted he was a bit naive following the Olympics when it came to his expectations of sponsorship.

"A lot of companies treat it as going into the Olympics, that's when they want to support you. It's a bit frustrating," he said. "The speaking I really like doing. It pays the bills."

Motivating youngsters is one thing, but motivating himself is a bit trickier with the 2012 Games still three years away.

"It was just such a long experience leading up to my first games and then afterwards, kind of the last five or six months have just been a blur," said Cochrane.

"It's gone by so fast I know the next three and a half years will go by really fast."

But fast is the name of the game. And if things keep going for Cochrane the way they began for him in Edmonton, he'll keep getting faster.

"(The Kinsmen is a) great pool and it seems to be fast so far. Hopefully it carries on (over) the weekend," said Cochrane, who set the second-fastest time in the history of the 1,500 m event during his time in Beijing.

For a short time, it stood as an Olympic record, until it was broken in the finals.

"That was a great feeling because I didn't expect it," he said. "The unexpected ones are always the best."

Better than his expectations going into Beijing, at least.

"I kind of expected it to feel more magical, like in the moment. And then you get there and it's amazing that it feels like any other competition," said Cochrane. "I've learned a lot from the Olympics. I didn't get where I wanted to go.

"I was happy with the medal. It's funny to think about it now because going into the Games, my goal was just to get a medal."

Fast-forward six months and Cochrane is hungrier and more focused on the next Olympics.

"2012 is my focus. I want to win in 2012. That's the goal."

Following westerns, Cochrane will be gearing up for short-course nationals at the University of Toronto March 11 to 14.


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