Cochrane was put through an emotional wringer Saturday as he was had his spot in the 400-metre freestyle final taken away by an official appeal.
Cochrane left the Aquatic Centre following the morning's heats expecting to race the final at night, only to learn a disqualification of defending Olympic and world champion Park Tae-hwan for a false start was reversed.
The decision to reinstate Park bumped Cochrane from the eighth and final berth in the final to ninth and out of the race.
"Ryan is obviously not happy with the fact that he's not swimming the final, but he's also looking forward to getting ready for the 1,500 freestyle, his primary event," Canadian team coach Randy Bennett said at a news conference prior to the finals.
Cochrane did not attend the news conference. The decision to reinstate Park came midway through the afternoon.
The 23-year-old swimmer won Olympic bronze in the 1,500 metres four years ago. His stated goal for London was two medals, although his potential was always stronger in next Saturday's 1,500. Still, Cochrane worked hard on his turns to shave time off his 400, a distance he was fifth in at last year's world championship.
While the South Korea's Park was winning a silver medal Saturday night, Cochrane tweeted "Obviously placing 9th by 1/100th of a second has been a challenging thing to overcome. I'm now putting all my energy into this mile."
Park won his heat in three minutes 46.68 seconds, which was the fourth-fastest time, but was initially disqualified for a false start. South Korea filed its appeal with FINA, the world governing body of swimming, within the required 20 minutes of the race.
With the naked eye, it's difficult to see on video if Park twitched before the start gun. FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told The Associated Press he did not know why the judge on the pool deck called for a disqualification.
"It's a very good question," Marculescu said. "Human error maybe."
The referee for Saturday's races was a Canadian, Bill Hogan from St. John's, N.L.
FINA's rules state "The referee shall disqualify any swimmer for any violation of the rules that he personally observes. The referee may also disqualify any swimmer for any violation reported to him by other authorized officials. All disqualifications are subject to the decision of the referee."
Canada couldn't counter-appeal because the FINA jury's decisions are final. Faced with a impenetrable wall, Bennett and Swimming Canada chief executive officer Pierre Lafontaine seemed to want to cut their losses and put the incident behind the Canadian team quickly.
"I've never seen anything like it and there's nothing you can do about it, so you have to move forward," Bennett said. "I can bang my head against the wall, but there's no value. We have a responsibility to the rest of the swimmers and the team to move forward."
Neither man entertained the notion that favouritism was given to the world and Olympic champion in FINA's decision.
"I would hate to think that you pick these officials . . . some are from different countries, can you imagine the process if you have to start removing an official when there's a heat of a different competitor?" Lafontaine said. "These people are taken because of the work they do. I'm confident the way FINA does their work at this point in time."
Cochrane won the second of four heats in a time of in three minutes 47.26 seconds. He said later it was difficult to know how fast he needed to be when Park and China's Sun Yang, last year's world silver medallist, raced in later heats.
"I knew I had to win my heat to get a lane for tonight," Cochrane said. "When I saw my final time, I knew I had four or five seconds (faster) in me."
What smarts is Cochrane was a mere .02 seconds out of the safety of seventh.
"He got up and won the heat and typically that's good enough in seeded heats," Bennett said. "You bang your head against the wall a little bit about some of this stuff, but there's a little bit of luck involved in some of these situations."
China's Sun Yang won gold ahead of Park in the final. Cochrane's best 400 time of 3:44.85 would have ranked fourth in the Olympic final. Sun is Cochrane's chief rival for gold in the 1,500.
Cochrane has six days to put the debacle behind him and attempt an Olympic medal in his marquee event. He's a silver medallist in the distance at the last two world championships.
"He's as tough as nails," Bennett said. "I expect him to be basically head down and get ready."
Cochrane was Canada's best medal chance on the first day of official competition, so it was deflating start for the Canadian swim team and the Olympic team overall.
The swim team's goal is three medals and swimming in between 13 and 15 finals in London. No swimmer achieved either on opening day.
Scott Dickens of Burlington, Ont., was 16th in the 100-metre breaststroke semifinals in a time of 1:00.16 and didn't advance. He'd broken his own Canadian record in the heats in 59.85.
"It's never fun to miss the final and go slower than you did in the morning, but I'm not going to dwell on what happened because I'm proud of myself," Dickens said. "I was going to come into these Games and be happy with my results no matter what. It's not easy to get here.
"It's a hard race to judge, the 100, because it's an all-out sprint. I broke the Canadian record this morning and went under a minute for the first time. That's something to be proud of."
Dickens had no comment on Cochrane's predicament.
Katerine Savard of Cap-Rouge, Que., squeaked into the 100-metre butterfly semifinal when Denmark's Inge Dekker withdrew after the heats. Savard was 16th in 59.22 seconds. She failed to advance to the final.
Stephanie Horner of Beaconsfield, Que., finished 21st in the women's 400-metre individual medley heats and did not advance. The youngest man on the Canadian team at 18, Alec Page of Victoria, was 23rd in the men's 400 IM preliminaries. The Canadian women's 100 freestyle relay team finished 11th in qualifying.