|HOME | SPORTS | OLYMPICS | NEWS|
|August 23, 2000||
Vintage Popov hopes for golden goodbyeGennady Fyodorov in Moscow
Just when it appeared he might be over the hill, Alexander Popov rattled his younger rivals at last month's European swimming championships in Helsinki by reclaiming the 50 and 100 metres freestyle titles.
In June, he had produced another world record performance, smashing Tom Jager's 10-year-old world record of 21.81 in the 50 metres freestyle at the Russian championships to clock 21.64.
The multiple world and Olympic champion, who turns 29 in November, has made a habit of proving his critics wrong.
At 20, he beat American favourite Matt Biondi, 100 freestyle world record holder at the time, to win the Olympic 50 and 100 metres freestyle gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Then he sustained serious knife wounds in a clash with watermelon sellers on a deserted Moscow street shortly after competing a a second Olympic double at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Popov made a full recovery and went on to retain his European 50 and 100 freestyle titles in the following year. He followed up by winning another world 100 freestyle crown in 1998.
While other top swimmers have donned expensive neck-to-ankle bodysuits to improve their times, Popov says he will stick to his old pair of trunks.
"As you can see, I'm still wearing my old $30 pair of trunks," he said after his record-breaking swim, adding that he had no plans to use a bodysuit at the Sydney Olympics.
"I've tried several different makes and I just didn't like any of them. So I'll stick to my old pair of trunks."
Two days after breaking the 50 freestyle world record, the Canberra-based Russian came within 0.06 seconds of his own world 100 freestyle mark of 48.21 he set in Monaco in 1994.
But Popov was not disappointed.
"Records are not meant to be broken every day," he said. "You don't want to show all your cards before it's time -- and that time has not come yet."
His prime goal is Sydney, where he will try to become the first male swimmer to win an event at three consecutive Olympics.
Popov, who was last year voted on to the International Olympic Committee for his sporting achievements, knows if he wins in Sydney, he will join a unique club.
"In swimming, I have nothing left to prove or to gain, except to make history by winning three straight," he said.
"Only one man before me had won Olympic 100 metres titles back-to-back. That man was Johnny Weissmuller who later became famous by playing Tarzan in movies.
"But he won way back in 1924-28 when both of my parents weren't even born. And no one had done it until I was fortunate enough to repeat this feat. So, you can imagine what winning three straight means to me."
Popov also knows he can no longer dominate his younger rivals as he did for most of the last decade, going undefeated in major competitions in both the 50 and 100 metres freestyle from 1991 to 1997.
However, Popov feels he still has plenty of speed and power left in his lean 1.92-metre frame, come September 15.
"It's probably going to be the toughest competition of my life," he said. "I know the pressure will be much greater than I ever had, simply because of who I am, but that's the price you pay for being on top for as long as I have."
Popov declined to discuss his Olympic chances but did not rule out remaining in the sport after the Games.
"It will depend on how well I do in Sydney," he said.
Mail Sports Editor
TRAVEL | NEWSLINKS
ROMANCE | WEDDING | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | FREE MESSENGER | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK