Saanich’s Ryan Cochrane displays the gold medal he won at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.                                 Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

Saanich’s Ryan Cochrane displays the gold medal he won at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

Teachers helped Cochrane achieve Olympic dreams

Readers invited to nominate teachers who make a difference

Rick Stiebel

News Staff

Finding the right balance for school, sport and life became quite the juggling act for Ryan Cochrane, especially as his proficiency in the pool increased to Olympic athlete levels.

“Learning what dedication meant and how much I had to forgo in order to gain success meant I had to manage both my time and my energy,” Cochrane explained. “Sometimes school came first and at other times, swimming.”

The formula he came up with obviously worked out for the Saanich native, who earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejiing and a silver in London in the 1,500 metres four years later.

He remembers the effort it took to get up before 5 a.m. to train, followed frequently by days of 12 hours or more.

“It taught me how to see long-term goals through,” said Cochrane, who recently announced his retirement. “There wasn’t always immediate satisfaction, but I always knew what I was working towards.”

The Great Teachers series, sponsored by Black Press Community Media and Staples Business Depot West Shore with support from Camosun College, highlights the amazing work teachers do every day in classrooms throughout the Capital Region.

Cochrane is quick to credit teachers whose support and flexibility played major roles in helping him achieve his goals.

“Warren Hamm, my Grade 4 teacher at Lochside Elementary, was an incredibly invested person who taught us not only how to be excellent students in the classroom, but how to excel outside of those walls as well,” Cochrane recalled. “From community activities to weekend bike trips, he went more than above and beyond and still remains one of my favourite teachers.”

While struggles with the demands of training caused him to sometimes fall asleep in class, Cochrane’s Grade 10 math teacher at Claremont secondary understood and worked with him to excel in that subject. “He always stayed positive and helpful.”

His science teacher at Claremont, Anul Nijjar, brought a level of commitment to each student every day that Cochrane will never forget. “Science was never a subject that I was very good at but she made it enthralling,” Cochrane said, adding that Nijjar motivated him so much he entered a science fair.

Cochrane was also keen to include David Medler, a professor at the University of Victoria.

He taught statistics, a class that wasn’t met with much enthusiasm by most students,” he said. “Not only was I terrified of that class, but I had heard horror stories about how much of a GPA ruiner it could be. David somehow made a relatively dry subject one of my favourite classes of all at university. I still look back and think how impressive that was.”

Cochrane believes the balancing act of life in and out of sports is never easy, and there will always be difficult days. He is extremely grateful for the teachers that taught him the importance of being a good student.

“They helped me realize that there’s life after sport, a notion that instills a lot of encouragement during your time as an athlete. Sport can’t last forever but your education will, so choose the best balance and don’t take the easy road.”

To nominate a teacher who has made a difference, go to


Teachers helped Cochrane achieve Olympic dreams