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Alexander Popov: the battle for the Olympics is over, now it's time to fight back in 'peaceful' life

March 24 2005

During his long sporting life Alexander Popov won so many medals that are not under the force of other teams. He was four-time Olympic swimming champion in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, six-time world champion and twenty times - Europe. In general, a man of legend.

And so he resigned from the big sport. Gone, alas, not a winner and somehow very casually - without solemn declarations about the end of athletic career and solemn wires. During the Moscow World Cup Popov was like, like a side of the basin, has awarded a pair of winners and realized that his heart during the competition is not knocking exciting as ever - and so it's time to hang up melting on a nail.

From Barcelona to Atlanta

It's sad that a great athlete Popov retiring from the sport. And offensively, he could not go undefeated. He really wanted to win in Athens, but did not get there even a "bronze". Olympics-2004 was for Alexander the Fourth. As they say, so many sprinters do not live. Short distances require enormous physical cost, which is able to withstand only a young body. Because usually sprinters, even a very good performance at a maximum of one, at best, two Olympic cycles.

Four Olympic sdyuzhil only Popov. He won the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, first in Barcelona-92, then in Atlanta-96. There, in the U.S., the main rival of Alexander was a young and talented American Gary Hall. At his victory came in to see then-President Bill Clinton. The struggle between the Russians and an American then turned crazy. Tickets for this "swim-century" were sold exclusively with the hands and for big money. At a distance of 50 meters in both athletes showed a fantastic result, but Popov finished first, not allowing recoup Hall and at one hundred meters. As a result, Clinton, gritting his teeth clenched his heart and was forced to applaud the triumph of Popov.

Silver in Sydney and Athens' troubles

Four years later at the Olympic Games in Sydney Alexander seriously by no longer perceived. Mol, came to "grandfather" of the Russian Olympic swim in the swimming pool. Oh, and let them flounder about, and for the medals will be arguing the other. But Popov in Australia swam to silver medals in the "hundreds." The result for the veteran quite decent and it would seem, has come quite a good time to honorably withdraw from the sport. But the fact that the veteran Popov himself did not feel it. Moreover, he set his sights on a fourth Olympics.

At the world championships in 2003 Popov plunged all his rivals in shock. In the deep "retirement" for a modern sailing age (Popov at that time was filled in 1931) he won with ease in Barcelona three gold medals - for "fifty dollars" and the beach, as well as in the combined relay.

In Athens Popov rode favorite. He was so confident that he agreed to fly the flag of the Russian delegation at the opening ceremony, which took place two days before the first start. Evil tongues even rumored that Popov supposedly volunteered himself for the role of standard bearer. Well, even if so, the four-time Olympic champion had every right, but only if traveling to Athens for people watching. And if wanted to show themselves, then he needed to rest and gain strength on the eve of launch, not pacing up and down with the flag. Apparently, those forces that Popov had left at the opening ceremony, it was not enough on the track. As a result, in both of his favorite distance, Alexander did not even made it into the final.

Turkish and foreign countries

ezhdu way, the trainer of Alexander, the world-famous Gennady Turetsky, was confident that Popov in Greece anything so win. Like, I do not know, Sasha, and I leave without a medal from Athens did not intend. But - I had to.

That's because Popov upset his mentor, with whom he worked side by side over a dozen years.

Sasha learned to swim in 8 years, with great difficulty overcoming the fear of water. Two years later began to train seriously, and his first specialization was the "spin". And only after the transition in 1990 under the wing of the Turkish, he retrained in the freestyle.

Thanks all the same Turkish, which in 1993 was called to work in Australia in the National Institute of Sports, and Alexander was at the Green Continent. However, its there, unlike his trainer, did not wait: Why pay attention to one of its major competitors, Kojima, this kid is for Australian swimmers?

It is interesting that another famous pupil Turkish - Australian Muckle Klim earned in the year from 3 million to 5 million dollars. Popov kind of money, and never dreamed of. Another thing, if Alexander would have taken Australian citizenship, as he has repeatedly hinted at. But he refused, rightly arguing that the money in this life, solve a few. However, despite all the difficulties, Popov has lived in Australia for over 10 years.

- I went there primarily to train. Although it was not easy: a foreign language, foreign culture, but a good climate and excellent facilities for training. Of course, away from Russia was difficult. We, Russians, very different from the foreigners. Did not have enough friends. Yes, there is a certain circle of friends, but it's not that. Not for the soul. In addition, we are all abroad - foreigners. Prejudice against feeling ever. Fly from Australia to Europe is very tedious. So I decided with my family to move to Switzerland. Why not in Russia? Because in Switzerland in terms of life and exercise get easier. But, you know, when the arrive at Sheremetyevo, always find myself thinking: a pier, so I was home.

In Switzerland, Popov also went along with the Turkish. Trained, and sometimes acted in local competitions for small Swiss club, and preparing for the Olympics.

And how it ended, you already know.

Family Popov

Popov abroad not only trained but also suited his personal life. In 1997 the municipality of Canberra, he registered the marriage with Daria Shmeleva - famous swimmer, to play for Russia at the Olympics in Atlanta. A few months later the young family born son was born Vladimir, and three years later the light appeared Anton. Guys for a while grew up in Australia than the Popov was not too pleased.

- When Vladimir was born, and then Anton, I began to wonder about many things. For example, that do not want my children brought up by an Australian or Swiss traditions. Many people who went abroad seemed to be on time, stay there forever - because children accustomed to a foreign culture. But I do not want something similar happened with my children.

By the way, the parents of Alexander, who still live at home Popov in the Forest of Sverdlovsk region, have long been virtually cut off from grandchildren. They and the children then occur only once every two years. The fact that the Forest - a city closed. There is Combine Elektrokhimpribor "working for defense industry, and parents are Popova Travel Abroad. For many years, they could not get permission to emigrate to Australia and Switzerland.

As told Valentina Popova, officials can not make an exception even famous athletes. Alexander himself has repeatedly said that the problem is its very worried. For many years he was forced to communicate with their parents only by phone.As mother of an athlete, calls Alexander each week, here only to participate in the education of grandchildren, grandparents can not.


But there was tragedy in the life of Popov's much more scary.

August 24, 1996, six months after Alexander won in Atlanta, his third and fourth Olympic gold, he was on the verge of death. Returning late at night with your friends birthday and they decided to buy a watermelon. They tried to shove stale. Word for word - and a fight broke out, during which Popov was stabbed in the stomach, have been affected by kidney and lung. Champion rushed to hospital where had the surgery, which lasted three hours.

And then it was a long treatment, a difficult process of recovery. Popov train started only after 9 months, and then slowly-polegonku. He came a long, hard cast on the form, and therefore the silver medal of the Sydney Olympics, won after being wounded - more expensive than any gold.

By the way, barely standing after an injury to his feet, Popov was baptized into the Orthodox faith, and the godfather Alexander became his namesake, and at least a great athlete - Karelin.


But even leaving the sport, Popov did not disappear. He had been a man in many international sports organizations. He had not suggested itself - its world much respected, and therefore always choose. First, the International Olympic Committee, then to the International Commission of athletes FINA, where he served as General Secretary. Now Alexander is vice president of the All-Russian Swimming Federation for Gennady Aleshin, but, apparently, close to the day when it will be there mostly Popov.

Once, on the eve of the Games in Athens, he has already tried to argue with Alyoshin for the seat. Presented his program, enlisted the support of Fetisov, but eventually lost 7 votes. However, while Popov did not set itself the task of winning at all costs. Get - well. Not work - try next time. It is understandable, then all thoughts of Alexander were about Athens. There, he again lost, but in his new "peaceful" life certainly try to recoup. You will see that it necessarily vyplyvet.


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