Vladimir Valeryevich Salnikov (Russian: Владимир Валерьевич Сальников; born 21 May 1960) is a Russian former swimmer who competed for the Soviet Union and set 12 world records in the 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1,500-meter freestyle. Nicknamed a "monster in the waves", he was the first man to swim under fifteen minutes in the 1500-meter freestyle and also the first man to swim under eight minutes in the 800-meter freestyle. He was named the Male World Swimmer of the Year in 1982 by Swimming World magazine.
Salnikov (left) on the podium after winning the 1,500 m race at the Moscow Olympics, 1980.
Born in Leningrad, Soviet Union. Salnikov was the son of a sea captain. When he was seven years old, his mother took him to a swimming pool to join a swimming team. One year later he began to train regularly under the lead of coach. Salnikov trained at Zenit and later at the Armed Forces sports society.
Salnikov made his debut in the Olympic games in 1976 in Montreal, at the age of 16. He broke the European record in the 1,500-meter race freestyle, but finished fifth.
His long sequence of international victories began at the 1977 European Championship where he won the gold medal in his favourite race, the 1,500 m freestyle.
In the 1978 World Championship in Berlin, Salnikov won gold medals in the 400 and 1,500-meter freestyle. He established a new world record in the 400 meters. One year later he set another world record, this time in the 800-meter freestyle, becoming the first man to complete the distance in less than eight minutes.
The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but Salnikov demonstrated that he was far superior to everybody stunning the world as he won the gold medal in the 1500 finishing in 14:58.27, first man to swim the distance under 15 minutes. He won two more gold medals in the 4×200 m relay and in the 400 m, both freestyle.
In the early 1980s Salinikov was the absolute ruler of the freestyle races on the longer distances: in 1982 he retained his world titles, and one year later, at the European Championship, he set a new world record in the 1,500 m with the time of 14:54.76: the record lasted until 1991, when it was beaten by the German Jörg Hoffmann.
The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, so Salnikov could not defend his title. Salnikov went back to Seoul in 1988, at the age of 28. He was not one of the favorites, at 28 he was considered too old. He had set a world record in 1986 in the 800 m, but since then he never returned to his levels and two years later he was considered in decline. Salnikov, however, won the 1,500 meters race. That night when entering in the Olympic Village restaurant he was awarded a standing ovation by the other athletes.
His titles also include four World Championship gold medals, four European Championship gold medals and one European Championship silver medal.