As a tuneup for his bid for the Olympic podium, it's hard to say just yet what impact his duel in the pool with Rick Mercer will have on Canada's Ryan Cochrane.
Cochrane, an Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing in the men's 1,500-metre freestyle and silver medalist in the event at last year's worlds, definitely enjoyed the CBC satirist's visit to the Victoria pool where he trains ahead of this week's Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials in Montreal.
As this video from the Rick Mercer Report shows, Mercer had to be hooked up to a pulley system to keep pace with Cochrane. That didn't work, either.
“He's pretty funny in person and it's kind of just go, go, go the whole time,” said Cochrane. “I was killing myself laughing because I thought he was drowning beside me when we were doing the racing. He's like 'I have a safe word. So if I yell the safe word, stop. But no matter what else I yell, just keep going.'
“It was awesome. I think it's really great for our whole team, just the publicity from it. I was just happy to get in a world edge-wise because he's a bit of a talker.”
Cochrane's coach, Randy Bennett, was asked about Mercer's potential as a swimmer.
“I thought Simon (Whitfield) summed it up pretty well on the show. When Rick asked if he had any chance of getting better, he said 'No.'”
Soul Searching Trip: Having seen the work Right To Play is doing internationally, Canadian speed skating great Kristina Groves was very interested to see the programs they are implementing in First Nations communities in Ontario. Her recent trip led to a lot of soul searching afterwards and this blog post for CBC that is definitely worth a read.
Here's an excerpt:
On the first night of the trip I was honoured to sit with the Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Shawn Atleo at a dinner organized by Right To Play. I asked him what the greatest difficulty facing Canada’s Aboriginal people was. His answer surprised me. It was not alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, education, healthcare, or unemployment, but rather the very root of all of these problems – a systemic lack of self-confidence.
The basic premise of the Right To Play First Nations PLAY (Promoting Life skills in Aboriginal Youth) program is the development of youth leadership, and by extension confidence, through local community mentors. The youth themselves identify the needs of their own communities and then work together to implement new ideas and activities. There has been steep learning curve. I learned about the challenges they’ve faced in just getting kids to show up, to speak, to engage. These are early days, but there are already plenty of successes to celebrate.
And then comes me, an Olympic athlete with weird skates and shiny medals, hoping to share and teach and learn. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I encountered was to me a sort of chaos: kids running around yelling, not paying attention, playing silly games. To the staff this was a thing of beauty – kids running, playing, yelling!!
Amidst the chaos, while attempting in vain to teach some of the kids to skate, terrified that one of them would fall and hit their head, I wondered to myself if I had made a mistake in being there, talking to kids about the Olympics and trying to teach them to speed skate when they had little hope of understanding my life, in much the same way I had little hope of understanding theirs. I was doubtful that a connection could be made, in so short a time, across a gap so wide.
After the community feast in Sheshegwaning First Nation, as we were preparing to drive back to Sudbury, one of the girls I met asked me if I was ever coming back. I replied that yes, maybe one day I would make it back there for another visit. Still unsure of my impact I asked the girl why she wanted me to come back. And she said, “Because nobody ever comes here.”