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16 Nov 2006
IOC News

Like a Popov in water

For Alexander Popov, swimming is second nature. For swimming, Alexander Popov is a force of nature. A relationship which has shown its worth. Today, the famous crawler is celebrating his 35th birthday: a chance to look back over the career of this great, 1.97m tall athlete.
An impressive list of titles
It was in Barcelona in 1992 that Alexander Popov first competed in the Olympic Games. He took part in four different events: the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 4x100m medley relay and the 4x100m freestyle relay. Four opportunities to see this young Russian demonstrate his talent. Indeed, he won two individual gold medals and two team silver medals, but did not stop there. He also set a new Olympic record in the 50m freestyle, with a time of 21”91. Alexander was one of the revelations of the Games of the XXV Olympiad, and immediately joined the ranks of the world’s top sprint swimmers.
Four years later, the Russian swimmer was back in the water at the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta, inspiring the same emotion among spectators as in the Catalan capital. Competing in the same events as in Barcelona, Popov won the same gold and silver medals: an unexpected “copy and paste”.
The next two Olympic Games in which he swam were in Sydney, in 2000, and Athens, in 2004. He made another podium appearance to take the silver medal for the 100m freestyle at the Games in Sydney.
Parallel to this, he was just as efficient at the World Championships. His top performance, on 16 June 2000 in Moscow, was setting a new world record in the 50m freestyle, in 21”64; the second was winning six gold medals, four silvers and a bronze between 1994 and 2003. An impressive record to add to his Olympic achievements.
Olympic commitment outside the pool
Alexander Popov has always been at the big Olympic occasions. But he also holds other functions within the Olympic Movement: a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1999 and an Athletes’ Commission member since 1996. This role suits him perfectly, and is one in which he can put to good use his studies at the Russian Academy on “The structure of international sport”.
A mind of steel
Just one month after the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the champion Popov was stabbed in a Moscow street. The knife penetrated 15 centimetres into his stomach, narrowly missing a lung. But this did not prevent the Russian swimmer from resuming his training and beating the 50m freestyle world record a year after the attack. Another hallmark of a great champion.

Alexander Popov is an exceptional athlete. His commitment to sport and exemplary career make him an outstanding figure in Olympic history.



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