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Plans to be Back in Six Months and at the Sydney Olympics Four Years from Now

Karin Helmstaedt

It was a hero's welcome for Alexander Popov.

Less than three weeks after being stabbed in the stomach while on holiday in Moscow, the four-time Olympic gold medalist flew to Volgograd (the club with which he is still affiliated) to attend an award ceremony in honour of the city's Olympic medalists. As he emerged from the plane in the company of his girlfriend, swimmer Daria Shmeleva, a crowd of fans welcomed him with roses. His parents, came specially from Sverdlovsk to see their only son, were also among the supporters.

Thin and drawn after his ordeal, Alex nevertheless kept up with the star's schedule that awaited him, including meetings with journalists and city officials, and the lengthy award ceremony during which he received numerous cheques from sponsors, an apartment in Volgograd, and a new car.

For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Obviously touched, Alex admitted that the avalanche of get well wishes that he received while in hospital meant a lot to him. His doctor explained that Alex was very lucky that the damage had not been worse: the knife had damaged his pleural lining, but not his lungs. Surgery had lasted more than two hours.

Alex, for his part, thanked Providence in his own way: the first thing he did after his release from hospital was to have himself baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Despite the serious nature of the setback, he says he prefers to put it behind him. He is as determined as ever to be in Sydney in four years, and says that nothing will stop him.

For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

He will take it easy for a while however, to allow himself to fully recover. Alex predicts that it will take him at least six months before he is back in "competitive" shape. But then, over a lifetime, what is six months? He very nearly lost a lot more.

Alexander POPOV
PLACE Sverdlovsk, RUS
HEIGHT 6 ft. 4 in. / 197 cm
WEIGHT 195 lbs / 89 kg
HOME Canberra, AUS / Volgograd, RUS
OCCUPATION Full-Time Athlete
REPRESENTS Volga Swim Club
COACH Gennadi Touretski
96 Olympics 1st 50 free 22.13, 1st 100 free 48.74,
2nd 4x100 FR, 2nd 4x100 MR
95 Europeans 1st 50 free 22.25, 1st 100 free 49.10,
1st 4x100 FR, 1st 4x100 MR
94 Worlds 1st 50 free 22.17, 1st 100 free 49.21,
2nd 4x100 FR, 2nd 4x100 MR
93 Europeans, 1st 50 free 22.27, 1st 100 free 49.15,
1st 4x100 FR, 1st 4x100 MR
92 Olympics 1st 50 free 21.91, 1st 100 free 49.02,
2nd 4x100 FR, 2nd 4x100 MR
91 Europeans 1st 100 free 49.18, 1st 4x100 FR, 1st 4x100 MR
Hold long course world record 100 free 48.21 from 1994

Compiled race statistics for Alexander Popov.

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