KAZAN, Russia – Canada’s most decorated swimmer of all time added a new medal to his collection Sunday at FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Ryan Cochrane of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre – Victoria took bronze in the men’s 400-m freestyle in a time of 3:44.59. It marks his seventh medal all-time at worlds – most all-time by a Canadian – and first in the 400.
“It wasn’t the best time but it’s nice to get on the podium. That’s what I’ve worked for 10 years in this event is to try to grab a medal,” said Cochrane, competing at his fifth world championships.
The 26-year-old has seen his results in the event progress from 18th in 2007, to seventh in 2009, to fifth in 2011, to an agonizing fourth in 2013 in Barcelona. Cochrane was just 0.17 behind American Connor Jaeger in that race, but out-touched him by 0.22 for the medal this time around. Sun Yang of China defended his world title in a time of 3:42.58, followed by Great Britain’s James Guy (3:43.75).
HPC-Victoria Head Coach Ryan Mallette, who took over after the late Randy Bennett lost his battle with cancer earlier this year, reflected on Cochrane’s accomplishment.
“It was great to see Ryan get his first world championship medal in the 400 free and it’s a big step for him,” Mallette said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of years of work starting with Randy obviously and with the fantastic team that we have in Victoria. They work hard every day and they all had a part in this.”
Sydney Pickrem followed up by lowering her national 200-m individual medley record for the second time in a matter of hours. Her semifinal time of 2:10.08 moved her into Monday’s final in fifth position.
“It’s a pretty good back-to-back for semis and I’m glad to get in the final,” said Pickrem, 18. “Now I’ll try to get under that 2:10 mark tomorrow.”
Pickrem was one of three Canadian women to advance to finals with a strong swim Sunday.
The evening opened with the women’s 100-m butterfly semifinals. Montreal’s Katerine Savard, 22, swam a 57.52 in her semi, which saw Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom set a new world record of 55.74. Savard’s time was good for fourth, while 18-year-old Noemie Thomas of Richmond, B.C. swam a 58.05 to set up a swim-off for eighth with Inge Dekker of the Netherlands. But Dekker declined the swim-off, allowing Thomas to slide into the final.
In relay action, the women’s 4×100 freestyle team of Sandrine Mainville, Michelle Williams, Chantal Van Landeghem and Katerine Savard set a new Canadian record of 3:36.44 in a fifth-place finish.
“I was really happy to lead off to see what I could do with an official time. At the same time it’s a motivator to try to get the lead for the girls,” said Mainville, who led off with a new personal best of 53.85, her first time under 54 seconds.
The men’s 4×100 free relay of Santo Condorelli, 20, Yuri Kisil, 19, Karl Krug, 25 and Evan Van Moerkerke, 21, came eighth in a time of 3:15.94.
“We’re young and we’ve still got another whole year until (the 2016 Olympics in) Rio, that’s the big quest or end of the journey,” Condorelli said. “This is just a stepping stone and we’re headed in the right direction.”
Condorelli also set an individual Canadian record Sunday, going 23.30 in the men’s 50-m butterfly. Unfortunately that left the 20-year-old in ninth, 0.01 behind Brazilian Cesar Cielo for the eighth spot in Monday’s final. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Richard Funk finished 15th in the men’s 100-m breaststroke with a time of 1:00.43.
“We came here with the intention of athletes progressing beyond heats. We’ve had a great day for athletes who progressed and then tonight we had three more ladies progress from the semifinals into finals tomorrow. This is the sort of performance we’re looking for as a team,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson. “I’d also like to pay reference to the fact that this is the first world podium for Ryan Cochrane in the 400 freestyle and that’s testament to the work that the whole centre in Victoria have done with Ryan Mallette and previous to that what Randy Bennett has done.”
While Pickrem, Savard and Thomas will be in the hunt for medals Monday, Cochrane will be back in the pool Tuesday for the preliminary heats in the 800-m, with finals set for Wednesday. He’s also entered in his signature 1,500-m freestyle (Saturday/Sunday). Cochrane is one of just two men in history (Grant Hackett, AUS) to medal in both long distances at three straight worlds.
“I think I can expect best times in all my races and if I can get there, the 800 and 1,500 are very competitive these days and it’s going to take best times to get on the podium.