In grade four Ryan Cochrane was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He quickly answered, “An Olympian!” without having the foggiest idea how to get there or even in what sport. Ryan just knew he loved watching the Olympics on TV and wanted to be part of it.

Getting there proved far from an easy road. Early on, his younger twin brother Devon was known as the ‘athletic’ one and Ryan is the first to admit he was far from a standout athlete in soccer, baseball, and even swimming while growing up. But he learned that in order to excel at anything he had to work at it. This lesson carried Ryan through his entire career to the point that when he retired he stood as Canada’s most decorated male swimmer of all-time.

Born and raised in Victoria, Ryan learned to swim at Saanich Commonwealth Place, built for swimming events at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and subsequently trained there for over twenty years. Perhaps the most significant influence on his career was long-time coach Randy Bennett, who joined Ryan’s club Island Swimming when Ryan was in his teens and continued coaching him on the Canadian national team most of his career.

Among the wave of young Canadian swimmers who lifted Canada back to international prominence in the pool, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Ryan won bronze in the 1500m freestyle, Canada’s first Olympic swimming medal in eight years and the first in this event in 88. Four years later at the 2012 Olympics in London, he moved up one step on the podium to silver in the 1500 free.

Along the way, Ryan collected eight medals at the World Aquatics Championships (four silver, four bronze), the most ever won by a Canadian swimmer at worlds. He also won four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, three golds at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, and two golds at the Pan American Games.

Eight-time winner of Canadian Male Swimmer of the Year and holder of multiple national records, Ryan served as Canadian Olympic team co-captain at his third Olympic Games in 2016.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.