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Canada's Ryan Cochrane races in the men's 400 metre freestyle heat at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Village at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Saturday, July 28, 2012. (The Canadian Press)

Canada's Ryan Cochrane races in the men's 400 metre freestyle heat at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Village at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Saturday, July 28, 2012.

(The Canadian Press)

Ryan Cochrane returns to pool with podium in mind Add to ...

After one swim, a South Korean protest, a lost spot in the final and five days between events, Ryan Cochrane returns to the pool Friday thinking it’s about time.

While the 23-year-old Victoria native always knew there was a lengthy break between the 400-metre freestyle and the 1,500-metre race, he hadn’t calculated on not making the final of last Saturday’s 400. Originally, Cochrane had qualified only to be bumped when FINA officials ruled South Korean Park Tae-hwan had been unjustly disqualified.

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During his Olympic racing break, Cochrane moved out of the Athletes’ Village, spent time with a nutritionist eating specially-prepared meals and worked on his stroke mechanics. To maximize his shot at gold-medal favourite Sun Yang of China, Cochrane has done more than the usual amount of weight work to improve his strength. Cochrane and the 6-foot-6 Yang, who broke the 1,500 world record last summer, both race in Friday’s heats.

“Physically, I’ve changed as an athlete ferociously,” Cochrane said, comparing himself to four years ago in Beijing where he won the bronze medal. “I’m more muscular than I was four years ago. It is about knowing yourself more than anything. The mental side, I’ve always been pretty level headed. These things excite me but at the same time I’m not too over the top.”

Long before arriving in London, Cochrane’s preparations for the 1,500 included swimming 40,000 metres a week; sometimes closer to 80,000. He had his support staff comparing his swims to Yang’s, who likes to come out fast and wear his opponents out early.

Cochrane expects to be charging hard through the closing 50 metres Friday and knows some things have changed since Beijing, where he kept his medal ambitions private. This time, he’s targeted himself as a medal contender and he’s eager to get back to work