VICTORIA - Ryan Cochrane says he has lost more than just a coach.Randy Bennett, a longtime Canadian swim coach who guided Cochrane to two Olympic medals, died Monday night of cancer. He was 51."We've lost a mentor, a visionary, and a friend," Cochrane said in a statement. "Randy's ability to fight for what was right is a tenet we must all continue to uphold."He expected nothing except the absolute best from each and every person he touched."Bennett was recently diagnosed with metastatic malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.The Victoria native served as national team coach at the London Olympics and has coached Canada's top senior teams at every major international competition since 2009. He has been with the High Performance Centre-Victoria since 2008 and worked with Cochrane, 2013 world championship medallist Hilary Caldwell and 2012 Olympian Alec Page.Cochrane, 26, won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and a silver in London four years later, both coming in the 1,500-metre freestyle."Coaching was his passion and his life, and I know he has had a profound impact on my life both in and out of sport," Cochrane said. "I would not be the athlete or person I am today without him. The values and imagination Randy instilled in all of his athletes will live on and that's a testament to his love of swimming."Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi called Bennett "a tremendous example of a dedicated coach.""He loved our sport, he cherished his athletes and he proudly represented his family and Canada," said El-Awadi. "He was a man of remarkable courage and strength of character. His achievements are too numerous to name but what stands out most is that he inspired others to achieve and they did. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him."Bennett's athletes delivered all four of Canada's swimming medals at the last FINA World Championships in 2013. In addition to two from Cochrane in the 800 and 1,500, Caldwell emerged with a bronze in women's 200-metre backstroke while Eric Hedlin captured a silver medal in the five-kilometre open-water event.Over the years, Bennett had also worked with Marianne Limpert, Rick Say, Julia Wilkinson and Mike Mintenko."Randy was always focused on high performance in everything he did," said Swimming Canada high performance director John Atkinson. "He will be greatly missed by all in swimming. Our thoughts are with his family at this time."Bennett is survived by his wife, Lesley, and two teenage sons, Brett and Kyle."Despite the rapid progression of his disease Randy remained focused on his family and the athletes he coached," said national team physician Steve Keeler, who had been acting as Bennett's primary physician, working alongside a team of specialists. "His strength through this journey was impressive."Ryan Mallette of the Canadian Sport Institute, who had been filling in during Bennett's illness, will continue to oversee the Canadian senior swimmers, Swimming Canada said.
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