Ryan Cochrane was supposed to have a down year.
The decorated Canadian swimmer was focused on graduating from university before ramping things up again for next summer’s Pan American Games ahead of what will be his final Olympics in 2016.
Instead, Cochrane is back where he always seems to be.
The 25-year-old put in a dominating performance in the final of the men’s 1,500-metre freestyle at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday for his second gold medal in Scotland.
“It’s funny how quickly you can get talked into things,” said Cochrane, who also won the 400-metre freestyle on Thursday. “I said that school was my focus this year, but with that said I like the balance of being able to work at my academics as well as in the pool.
“I think it put things really into perspective. I was able to enjoy both processes and not get overwhelmed.”
It was the competition that was overwhelmed on this night as the Victoria native raced to a time of 14 minutes 44.03 seconds on what was Canada’s best day at the Games.
With his legs and arms churning towards his country’s fourth gold medal in the pool, Cochrane ignored the fatigue and powered through with the knowledge it would be his final race on this stage.
“When it started to get hard at about 1,200 metres I kept telling myself, ‘This is one of your last chances to have a kick at this race,’ ” said Cochrane. “It can be really hard and it can be shocking when you can count down the races you have left, but with that being said I think I used it to my benefit.”
Cochrane’s performance repeated his double-gold performance from the Commonwealth Games four years ago in New Delhi, and was one of a number of impressive performances on Tuesday as Canada rose from sixth to third in the overall standings with 39 medals (16 gold, five silver and 18 bronze).
The day started with a 1-2 finish in women’s cross-country mountain biking. Catharine Pendrel of Kamloops, B.C., led from the opening lap and didn’t look back, finishing 70 seconds ahead of Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont.
In women’s wrestling, Erica Wiebe of Stittsville, Ont., won gold in the 75-kilogram division and Korey Jarvis of Elliot Lake, Ont., won gold in the men’s wrestling 125-kilo division. Jasmine Mian of Barrie, Ont., added bronze in the 48-kilo category.
At the track, Damian Warner of London, Ont., won gold in the decathlon, James Steacy of Lethbridge, Alta., won gold in the hammer throw and Kate Van Buskirk of Brampton, Ont., took bronze in the women’s 1,500 metres.
Meanwhile, weightlifter Marie-Eve Beauchemin-Nadeau of Montreal won gold in the 75-kilo category and Jim Paton of White Rock, B.C., won silver in the fullbore individual shooting event. In men’s artistic gymnastics, the team of Zachary Clay of Chilliwack, B.C., Calgary’s Nathan Gafuik, Anderson Loran of Saskatoon, Kevin Lytwyn of Stoney Creek, Ont., and Scott Morgan of North Vancouver, B.C., took the bronze.
Apart from Cochrane’s success in the pool, the women’s 4-by-100-metre medley relay team won a bronze, as did Calgary’s Brooklyn Snodgrass in the women’s 50-metre backstroke, and Montreal’s Aurelie Rivard in the women’s para-sport 200-metre individual medley S10.
Cochrane was never threatened in his final, finishing 4.73 seconds ahead of Australia’s Mack Horton and bettering Daniel Jervis of Wales by 11.30.
He won both the 400– and 1,500-metre freestyle events at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, but said before heading off to Glasgow that a repeat would be difficult at Tollcross International Swimming Centre.
In the end, it wasn’t.
“The consistency is always wanting to be the best in the world,” said Cochrane, who has won bronze and silver in the 1,500 at the Olympics. “I’ve been chasing that dream for a lot of years and I’ve been really proud of my results here to show that I can keep getting better even in my mid-20s.”
As Cochrane focused on his studies at the University of Victoria – he graduated this spring with a degree in psychology – he also decided to try new training techniques, including spending less time in the pool.
The results in Glasgow speak for themselves.
“We could have kept doing what we’ve done for the past six to eight years and it would have been good and we would have got the results we wanted, but maybe not quite the next step,” said Cochrane. “My times are a little bit faster or similar to where I’ve been, but it was such better racing. I’m going to take that as a huge benefit going into the next two years.”
Snodgrass snatched the bronze in the women’s 50-metre backstroke with a time of 27.97 second for her first Commonwealth Games medal.
“It was really exciting. I felt really good in warmup so I knew I was going to have a good 50,” said the 20-year-old Canadian. “I didn’t know where that was going to place me, but I’m more than happy with the result.
“I just wanted to come here and swim fast for my country and I wanted to learn as much as possible.”
In the women’s para-sport 200-metre individual medley S10, Rivard was third in 2:32.09.
“I feel pretty great. That was my goal, to stand on the podium,” said the 18-year-old, who has a disability in her left hand. “I’m happy with my time and with my race. It gives me confidence for the future.”
Canada capped the final day of swimming at the Games nicely when Tera van Beilen of Oakville, Ont., Sinead Russell of Burlington, Ont., Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., and Sandrine Mainville of Boucherville, Que., finished third in the women’s 4-x-100-metre relay in 4:03.57.
Canada finished with 11 overall medals in the pool, including four gold, one silver and six bronze.
“Our goal was to get a medal and we did that,” said van Beilen. “It was just a great way to end off an amazing meet for Canada.”