WINDSOR – Ryan Cochrane didn’t make the podium during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t beat the odds.
A last-minute addition to the Canadian roster, Cochrane and his canoe/kayak sprint partner Hugues Fournel placed eighth during the K2 200-metre final Aug. 18.
Cochrane, who grew up in the Windsor area, said he was proud of his accomplishments during the games.
“I’m pretty happy with the way things went, given the circumstances,” Cochrane said via telephone from Rio following the race. “We were chosen late (and had) three weeks to prepare. I mean, we’ve been training for years, but only had three weeks to get this together.”
Cochrane and his partner have kept positive throughout the process, focusing on their goal.
“We weren’t expected to make the final, but we did, which is quite the accomplishment. We didn’t quite finish where we would have loved to, but we took some really good strokes, some of the best I’ve ever taken,” he said.
“We went as hard as we could and I don’t think we can be disappointed, we’re both really happy with how things turned out. Now we’re spectators supporting the rest of our Canadian team.”
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Fans at home and Rio
Cochrane said he’s been so thankful for all of the support he’s received from across Canada during this year’s Olympic Games.
Cochrane’s parents are with him in Rio, while his girlfriend and children cheered him on from home in Quebec.
“It was so last minute and so expensive, it was too much to organize in such a short amount of time. She had also made commitments to coach, and she would never back out of a commitment like that,” he said.
“They put up a TV for all of the kids at the daycare so everyone could watch. I’m getting a lot of support from back home.”
In Windsor, Cochrane’s childhood home, dozens of people gathered at the Pisiquid Canoe Club to watch Cochrane’s race.
“(Pisiquid Canoe Club) is where I started, so it’s pretty special to see that and that the club is still supporting me, even though I’m not paddling from there anymore,” he said. “I still support that canoe club and I’m very proud to be from Windsor and to have that support.”
Cochrane said the past few months have been a “rollercoaster” for him, having lost his grandmother in July and then finding out he would be competing shortly after.
“It’s a little bit sad that she never got to see me selected to the Olympic team, but a big part of me has to say that she had something to do with it from above,” he said. “I am paddling underneath Christ the Redeemer, so maybe she’s somehow watching me with him and pushing me and giving me every opportunity that I have.”
Cochrane said he plans to try for the Canadian team again in four years to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Wendy Cochrane, Ryan’s mother, said she was feeling a mix of emotions while Ryan competed.
“It’s exciting, stressful, a whole bunch of things at once,” Wendy said. “But I have never been so proud of Ryan during this Olympics. It’s been a long journey that has had its ups and downs and he’s handled everything so professionally.
“We’re just so proud of him. It’s wonderful how supportive everyone has been.”
Kim Cochrane, Ryan’s father, said the games in Rio have been a great experience.
“I just can’t express it, the excitement and the energy when you get to an event like this within the crowd, it’s just phenomenal. We have been treated so well here and have been to these kind of events all over the world,” Kim said.
“The Brazilian people today, we were sitting in a crowd of 30 or 40 of them, and we cheered for their guy and when Ryan hit the water, all of the Brazilians were cheering for Canada. It’s a good feeling.”
Reaction in Windsor
Ryan Cochrane, who grew up in the Windsor area, got a rousing cheer from his fans at the Pisiquid Canoe Club along the Windsor Waterfront as he raced towards the finish line in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite not making it to the podium, onlookers inside the canoe club were ecstatic to see him projected on the wall as they waved Canadian flags and chanting “go Canada go.”
Melissa Hope, a parent with two children enrolled at the Pisiquid Canoe Club, said it was great to see young paddlers cheer on an Olympian who got his start where they are.
“He did us proud,” Melissa said.
Her daughter, Kyanna Hope, said she was excited to watch Cochrane race.
“It was really loud in the gym,” Kyanna said. “He started at Pisiquid, which made it really exciting. Good job Ryan.”