At the age of seven, Mount Saint Vincent University student Ryan Cochrane dreamed of becoming a world class kayaker. Since then, the 26-year-old native of Windsor, Nova Scotia has been paddling hard to turn his childhood aspirations into reality. He recently competed in the 2009 Senior World Championships where his team placed first in the semi finals and sixth overall.

“It’s always amazing being able to race for your country, especially when you’re racing against the best in the world,” states Ryan. “Winning the semi-finals was a huge accomplishment for the team. We couldn’t have been more proud.”

What many don’t know is that this determined competitor lives a double-life, frequently alternating between athlete and scholar. Ryan is currently working toward completing his Bachelor of Science degree with a Major in Psychology through the Mount’s Distance Education program.

“On the lake, I have to move fast to succeed; the great thing about my education is that I complete it at my own pace,” says Ryan. “Training is a year-long process. Between this and competing it can be hard squeezing anything else into my lifestyle. The Mount’s distance option eases the intensity of it all, making it possible for me to reach my athletic and academic goals.”

Ryan also admits that his mom helps keep his life in the right lane. “As I travel, my mom does some of my administration work. My family has been so supportive since the day I asked them to let me join the kayaking club 19 years ago.”

It’s Ryan’s love for the sport and the encouragement he receives from his family and friends that keep him moving forward. His success over the years is proof that his dedication and hard work are paying off. And how could it not, when he lives by the words of one of his favourite quotations? “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,” Steve Prefontaine.

In addition to his recent achievement at the 2009 Senior World Championships, some of Ryan’s other accomplishments include winning bronze in K2 500m, K2 200m and K4 200m races at the 2008 National Championships. In 2007, he won gold in the K2 500m race at the National Championships in Ottawa, breaking a long-standing record. Ryan also placed first in the K2 500m race at the 2006 National Sprint Championships in Regina Saskatchewan.

For Ryan, staying focused is essential to succeeding – on the lake or off. Ryan’s goal for the next while is to complete his education, but most of all he wants to make it to the 2012 Olympics.

“The Mount’s distance program is exactly what I need to keep paddling,” states Ryan. “I know that with continuous effort, dedication and passion I can make it to the Olympics and paddle with an elite group of athletes. This is what all of my hard work is about, and what I dreamed of when I first got into kayaking many years ago.”