But Salnikov's most memorable achievement came in the final of the 1,500m freestyle when he finished in a time of 14:58.27 to become the first person to break the 15-minute barrier. Vladimir missed the 1984 edition of the Games because the U.S.S.R. boycotted the Los Angeles Games. Between 1977 and 1986, however, Salnikov won 61 consecutive finals at 1,500m. Then, at the 1986 world championships, he finished only fourth, and at the 1987 European Championships, he did not even qualify for the final.
Trained by his wife, Salnikov mounted a comeback aimed at the 1988 Olympic Games. Little was expected of him, but in the 1,500m final he surged into the lead after 675m and went on to win a dramatic victory. At 28, Salnikov was the oldest Olympic swimming champion in 56 years. At 11:30 that night, after all the photographs had been taken and all the interviews and ceremonies were over, Salnikov walked into the cafeteria at the Athletes' Village to grab a late snack. There were more than 250 athletes and coaches in the room, representing a variety of nations and sports. As word spread that he had entered, the athletes and coaches spontaneously stopped eating and gave him a standing ovation.