Andrew Cooke delivered big during the Paralympics Can Am meet in Miami at the end of March.
Cooke earned qualifying times in the 100- and 200-metre freestyle events for the Pan Pacific team and set a Canadian record in the 200-m individual medley, in which he captured a gold medal.
Cooke said it was tough to win against strong competition. Facing that calibre of swimmers pushed a confident Cooke.
“I did pretty good. I got all best times,” he said.
Cooke’s KISU coach Jane Bentley said the gold medal effort was accomplished by dropping 14 seconds from his previous time.
“That time alone is gigantic in swimming,” said Bentley. “We usually drop one or two seconds. To be able to pull it together at that meet and drop 14 seconds does two things; it shows that he did a lot of preparation and he was ready, but it also shows that there is lots more room for improvement.”
Contributing to Cooke’s success was switching his freestyle breathing pattern. Bentley said that made a big difference for Cooke.
“He’s been doing a little more work outside of the pool as well,” she said. “That is paying off. That’s something I hope he continues to do. He’s been going to the gym and getting massaged, looking after himself physically.”
Heading into the Can Am meet, Cooke was confident he would earn at least one qualifying time. During his swims in the outdoor Ransom Everglades Aquatic Centre, Cooke found that the weather impacted him a bit with the colder winds. Bentley said it was cooler than expected with the strong head winds coming off the ocean.
However, Bentley added that going through that made it a wise choice to make it a qualifying meet because the venue for the Pan Pacific will be outdoors in Pasadena, Calif. It gave a preview of how swimmers will perform.
What impressed Bentley about Cooke’s performances was that he achieved his goals, though earning a Canadian record was a good surprise. Now Cooke just has to wait to find out if he is selected to the team. Bentley said he has made the criteria, it just depends on the number of swimmers being sent.
Bentley said that Cooke’s work ethic has improved since he competed in the Can Am Parachampionship last year in which he came second in the 200-m IM. He is training hard and has more drive.
“He is believing more,” said Bentley, adding that the Brazil and Tokyo Para Olympics are in sight. “He knows it is achievable.”
Avery Newton also competed and won gold in the 50-m freestyle.