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Ryan Cochrane wraps up Olympic trials with win in 1,500 metres

Olympic and Para-swimming Trials –

By Jim Morris

TORONTO – It was mission accomplished for Ryan Cochrane.

The two-time Olympic medallist won the grueling 1,500 metres on Sunday’s final day of the Olympic and Para-swimming Trials, presented by RBC. While satisfied with his time of 15 minutes, 00.75 seconds, Cochrane knows there is room for improvement before this summer’s Olympics in Rio.

“We are still trying different things in warmup,” said Cochrane, who was a 1,500-m silver medallist at the London 2012 Games after taking bronze in the same event in Beijing four years earlier. “It is difficult to be pushed alone.

“Hopefully I can be that much better when I am pushed. When you get in the moment at the Olympics, I know it’s possible.”

Peter Brothers, Cochrane’s teammate at the High Performance Centre – Victoria, finished in 15:21.19. That was over the Olympic nomination standard of 15:14.77.

Hilary Caldwell, a world championship finalist, waited until the last day of the meet to punch her ticket to Rio.

She swam the fourth fastest time of the year to win the 200-m backstroke in 2:07.96. Dominique Bouchard of North Bay, Ont., was second in 2:08.52.  Both were under the Olympic nomination standard of 2:10.60.

“The time is good,” said Caldwell, who also trains at the High Performance Centre – Victoria. “I wanted to go a little faster the last 50 metres but I’m happy.”

“Hopefully I can be that much better when I am pushed. When you get in the moment at the Olympics, I know it’s possible.” – ryan cochrane

Chantal Van Landeghem of Winnipeg won the women’s 50-m freestyle in 24.63 seconds. Michelle Williams, her teammate at the High Performance Centre – Ontario, was second in 24.82. Both were under the Olympic nomination standard of 25.28.

The men’s 50-m freestyle was a nail-biter. Yuri Kisil, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver, out-touched Santo Condorelli of Kenora, Ont., at the wall. His time of 22.23 seconds was just .02 faster than Condorelli. Both were under the nomination standard.

Luke Reilly of Richmond, B.C., won the men’s 200-m individual medley in 2:00.71, just missing the nomination time of 2:00.28.

In total 26 swimmers (18 women, eight men) have reached the nomination standard for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. On the Para-swimming side 22 swimmers (11 men, 11 women) have been acknowledged.

John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s High Performance Director, said there is increased depth in Olympic events like the women’s 100 and 200-m freestyle and the men’s 100-m freestyle.

“What I’ve seen this week is a shift in the approach and mentality of many programs across Canada,” he said. “We looked three years ago at where we were in terms of strong events and weak events and we had a lot of weak events.

“What the coaches have done with their athletes over the last three years is build back through this.”

Canadians reached seven finals at the London Games. That improved to 15 finals at last year’s FINA world championships in Kazan, Russia.

Atkinson is looking for that trend to continue in Rio.

“I think we have a team that is capable of every event progressing beyond heats,” he said. “Whether that be into semifinals or whether that be direct into finals.”

James Hood, Senior Manager, High Performance Para-Swimming Programs, was impressed with the performances of veterans like Aurelie Rivard, the S10 world record holder who won five races; Benoit Huot, who is looking to compete at his fifth Paralympics; and Nathan Stein, a S10 world champion medallist.

Some of the younger athletes also “stepped up and made significant improvements,” said Hood.

Abi Tripp, a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy looking to attend her first Paralympics, broke two Canadian records in one day. Nicolas-Guy Turbide, who is visually impaired, set a Canadian record and swam the third fastest time in the world this year.

“Our team is on the right track,” Hood said.

The next few months will be important as the Para-swimmers not only hone their skills in the pool but also mesh as a team.

“The next piece will be developing this as a team so they can work cohesively,” he said.

Rivard, who won the multi-class 100-m freestyle in 1:01.55, said she was more interested working on technique than collecting hardware.

“I was not setting my goals in terms of medals,” said the 19-year-old from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. “I was more focused on the times.

“The times are not bad at all for this team of the year.”

Zack McAllister of Lethbridge, Alta., won the multi-class men’s 100-m freestyle in a Canadian record time of 1:00.92. That knocked .34 off his own S8 own record that he set last year at the IPC World Championships.

The trials attracted 762 swimmers from 187 clubs cross Canada, the United States and other parts of the world. The competition was held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, the same pool that hosted last year’s Pan American and Parapan Am Games.

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