POPOV Alexandre (1972) Russia / Swimming
Popov, a specialist of the short sprint, is one of the finest swimmers of his generation, having been several times world champion and world record holder.He was the top swimmer at the Barcelona games when he won the 50 m free style and the very controversial 100 m race. In the latter event the chronometer broke down and there was a long wait for the verdict from the official time-keepers.He became a legend when he repeated his Catalonian feat in Atlanta. There he beat the American Hall in the 100 m and 50 m free style. He thus measured up to the American Johnny Weissmuller who until then had been the only swimmer to win two consecutive titles in the short sprint at the games in 1924 and 1928. These two titles won in Atlanta could have been his last. Stabbed in the street in Moscow, he spent several weeks in hospital before making a recovery. However, several months later, he retained his word championship crown and a few weeks before the Sydney games, he beat the world record for the 50 m freestyle. Yet, these wins hid the fact that Popov was no longer hungry for victory.Thus in Sydney, the Russian finished in only sixth place in the 50 m freestyle final. Several days earlier, he suffered an even greater reversal of fortune, coming second in the 100 m freestyle, beaten by the Dutchman Van den Hoogenband.Now a member of the IOC athletes committee, Alexandre Popov, who aims to take on Australian nationality, will be able to devote himself to his duties.