Two-time Olympic swimming medallist Ryan Cochrane has announced he will move from the water to the ice, retiring from swimming to chase gold on the bobsleigh chute.
The Victoria, B.C., native, who won a silver medal for Swimming Canada in the 1,500-metre freestyle at the 2012 Olympics in London, hopes to continue his pursuit of gold in the Canada 1 bobsleigh at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Joining the program after Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s recent national recruitment drive, Cochrane plans to join Team Rush, led by the world’s top-ranked two-man pilot, Lyndon Rush, in his team’s quest to return to the Olympic four-man podium in Sochi.
“I have had a lot of great moments in the pool, but I feel the time is right to move on to a new challenge,” said Cochrane, who also won a bronze medal in the 1,500 at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “I have always been attracted to winter sports and have admired bobsledders in particular. This is my chance to leave my mark on both the Summer and Winter Olympics.”
Cochrane was expected to be a top competitor at Swimming Canada’s upcoming World Championships Trials, which run from Wednesday through Saturday at Victoria’s Saanich Commonwealth Place. Canada’s best swimmers will race to represent the country at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona and Cochrane was a favourite in the 1,500, as well as the 400- and 800-metre freestyle events.
Instead, he will trade in his Speedo for a speed suit and spikes, to join his new winter sport World Cup comrades for a spring training camp at the Ice House in Calgary to officially begin his journey to the Winter Olympic podium.
“We’re ecstatic to add another high-profile summer-sport athlete into the mix of our program,” said Nathan Cicoria, high-performance director, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. “We have had great success drawing athletes from other sports and developing them into Olympic and World Champions in our sliding sports. If Ryan can learn how to perform in the cold, snow and on ice opposed to the comfy confines of a pool, there is no doubt he will succeed on our top team.”
Swimming Canada Interim CEO Ken Radford said Cochrane will be difficult to replace, but the team will move ahead.
“Ryan’s presence on the national team will certainly be missed. You don’t just find two-time Olympic medallists at any local pool. But if his heart is on the bobsleigh track, we have to respect that,” said Radford.
Cochrane said many factors influenced his decision.
“For one thing, everyone has been nagging me to wear a swim cap. Yeah it makes me faster, but sometimes it pulls my hair a little. It’s just not worth it,” Cochrane said. “And I don’t even really like getting wet to be honest.”
Cochrane says he has watched bobsleigh on TV “a couple of times” and expects the helmets will be much more comfortable than a swim cap.
“I’ve worn my friend’s motorcycle helmet and it’s much cushier. I’m definitely looking forward to that,” he said.
Although Cochrane has no bobsleigh experience, his competitive nature made him a force sliding down Victoria hills on both a Krazy Karpet and a GT Sno-racer as a young boy.
“I’m pretty sure I can pick it up,” Cochrane said. “It’s pretty much the same thing, right?”
This is an unedited press release.