OTTAWA – Swimmer Ryan Cochrane (Victoria Academy of Swimming) and diver Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., were named the male and female athletes of the year for 2011 today by the Aquatic Federation of Canada.
Cochrane, an Olympic bronze medallist in 2008 and a double world championship medallist in 2009, collected two more medals in July at the FINA World Aquatic Championships placing second in both the 800 and 1,500-metre freestyles. He was also ranked second in the world in both events.
Abel won 13 medals in 16 international events this year highlighted by a silver on three-metre synchro with Emilie Heymans and a bronze on individual three-metre at the FINA World Aquatic Championships. She also collected seven medals on the FINA World Series of Diving and three more on the FINA Grand Prix circuit.
Canada’s synchronized swimming national team was named team of the year for its golden performance in the team event at the Pan American Games. Those Games were the primary focus for this season as it allowed Canada to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and capped a solid season as Canada continued its return to the world’s elite.
Cochrane’s coach, Randy Bennett, was named the coach of the year. Bennett was head coach of Canada’s world championship team in 2011. Canadian swimmers won four medals at the worlds, set four Canadian records, lowered 17 personal best and reached 14 finals. Bennett is also head coach of the powerful Victoria Academy of Swimming Team which includes national team members Julia Wilkinson, Stefan Hirniak, Alexa Komarnycky and Cochrane.
Diver Kevin Geyson of Winnipeg received the Sprit of AFC Award for his incredible return from a serious injury. Geyson was hit by a car in Shanghai at the world championships and seriously injured. He was hospitalized for several days with head and leg injuries. In his first competition back in October he won a bronze medal with Eric Sehn on men’s 10-metre synchro at the Pan Am Games.
Margie Schuett of Calgary was named Volunteer of the Year for her outstanding work as Canada’s Chef de Mission at the 2011 FINA World Aquatic Championships. At those championships, the former national level diver was instrumental in responding to the Geyson medical emergency while maintaining smooth operations for the Canadian contingent in Shanghai.
Eldon Godfrey of Calgary received the AFC President’s Honour Roll. Godfrey hosted the Quadrennial Congress of UANA in Guadalajara at the Pan American Games and was nominated and elected to the Board of ACODEPA (the Association of Pan American sport federations). He also received the appointment of being named Honorary Life President of UANA.
Finally, Scott Russell of CBC television received the Media of the Year Award for keeping Canadians abreast of their athletes’ performances at the 2011 FINA World Aquatic Championships