Alexander Popov (swimmer)

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For the Russian ice hockey player, see Alexander Popov (ice hockey).
Alexander Popov
Alexander Popov 006.jpg
Personal information
Full name Алекса́ндр Влади́мирович Попо́в
Alexander Vladimirovich Popov
Nickname(s) Czar of Swimming[1]
Nationality  Russia
Born (1971-11-16) 16 November 1971 (age 44)
Lesnoy, Sverdlovsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height 1.97 m (6.5 ft)
Weight 87 kg (192 lb)
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle, Backstroke
Club Dynamo Moscow

Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov (also Alexander Popov, Russian: Александр Владимирович Попов); (born 16 November 1971) is a Russian former Olympic gold-winning swimmer regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time, and one of only two swimmers, male or female, to win four individual Olympic gold medals in freestyle events (the second being Katie Ledecky of the US).

Swimming career[edit]

Popov began swimming at age 8 at the Children and Youth Sports School of Fakel Sports Complex in Lesnoy,[2][3] at that time afraid of water. However, his father insisted on him taking swimming lessons in that sports school, and in his own words, he has "been stuck there ever since". Popov started out as a backstroker but switched to freestyle when he joined Gennadi Touretski's squad in 1990 on the initiative by the Head Coach of the USSR National Team Gleb Petrov.[2] He later moved from Russia to Australia to be with his coach.

Popov won the men's 50 m and 100 m freestyle in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and repeated his victories in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, becoming the first man to do so since Johnny Weissmuller. He presented Touretski with his 1996 Olympic gold medal from the 100 m freestyle. "I have a title and I'm on the paper, but, you know, Gennadi hasn't gotten anything from Atlanta or from Barcelona," Popov said. "But I know how much this particular medal means for him, is worth for him."

One month after the Atlanta Olympics, he was stabbed in the abdomen with a knife during a dispute with three Moscow street vendors. The knife sliced his artery, grazed one of his kidneys and damaged the pleura, the membrane that encases the lungs. He had emergency surgery and spent three months in rehabilitation. At the 1997 European Championships in Seville, Spain, he successfully defended his 50 m and 100 m freestyle titles.

In the 2003 Barcelona World Championships, Popov once again made a clean sweep of the men's 50 m and 100 m freestyle events, citing that Barcelona would always be special to him, for it was there that for him, everything first began. He announced his participation in the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, being the oldest competitor at the pool, the gold medal eluded him, and he did not even manage to make it into the finals of both the men's 50 m and 100 m freestyle events. He announced his retirement from the sport in January 2005.[4]

Post swimming[edit]

Popov at the Kremlin in 2008

Popov was elected a full member of the International Olympic Committee in December 1999. He also represents the athletes on the IOC Sport for All Commission and was elected directly as one of seven athletes to the IOC Athletes' Commission by the athletes participating in the 1996 Olympics. He was re-elected to the Athletes Commission at the 2000 Games and is now Honorary Secretary. He was awarded the 1996 Russian Medal of Honour for contributions to sport. He was also named Russian Athlete of the Year and European Sports Press Union Athlete of the Year in 1996.

In June 2003, he confirmed that he was permanently leaving Australia in early 2004 to live in Solothurn, Switzerland. He said the move followed the offer of a business proposition in Switzerland, once he had retired from swimming. He retained Touretski as a long-distance coach.

Alexander Popov during the 2008 Summer Olympics

Popov earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree in sports coaching from the Russian Academy. He is a spokesman for Omega SA.

He has recently appeared at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics after being elected a member of the IOC, presenting flowers to volunteers. He has been named to the Evaluation Commission for the 2016 Summer Olympics.[5]

In 2009 he served as chairman of the RC Lokomotiv Moscow rugby league club.[6]

Since May 2009 he is a member of the supervisory board of Adidas.[7]

In 2015 World Aquatics Championships, Chinese swimmer Ning Zetao set a milestone achievement of Asian swimming history. Popov presented Ning the gold medal.[8]Moreover, Ning sent Popov a postcard, because he has idolized Popov as his role model since childhood.

Personal life[edit]

In early 1997 he married Darya Shmeleva, a Russian Olympic swimmer whom he had dated since 1995. They have two sons, Vladimir (b. 1997) and Anton (b. 2000), and a daughter, Mia (b. 22 December 2010).[9][10]

Popov is a friend of the legendary wrestler Aleksandr Karelin.

Honors and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


Preceded by
Matt Biondi
Men's 100 metre freestyle
world record holder (long course)

18 June 1994 – 16 September 2000
Succeeded by
Michael Klim
Preceded by
Gustavo Borges
Men's 100 metre freestyle
world record holder (short course)

1 January 1994 – 27 March 2004
Succeeded by
Ian Crocker
Preceded by
Tom Jager
Men's 50 metre freestyle
world record holder (long course)

16 June 2000 – 17 February 2008
Succeeded by
Eamon Sullivan
Preceded by
Mark Foster
Men's 50 metre freestyle
world record holder (short course)

13 March 1994 – 13 December 1998
Succeeded by
Mark Foster
Preceded by
Károly Güttler
Pieter van den Hoogenband
European Swimmer of the Year
Succeeded by
Denis Pankratov
Pieter van den Hoogenband
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Andrey Lavrov
Flagbearer for Russia
Athens 2004
Succeeded by
Andrei Kirilenko