SWIMNEWS ONLINE: September 1996 Magazine Articles

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Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome.
Now for the rumours behind the news.

Olympic champion stabbed

Four-time Olympic champion and world record-holder Alexander Popov (RUS) was rushed to hospital with multiple stab wounds to the stomach on August 25, 1996.

On holiday in Moscow, the sprint "Tsar" was returning home from a party with a group of friends when he became involved in a scuffle with a streetside merchant and was stabbed in the stomach. He was lucky to be rescued by a passing motorist who took him to the hospital where he was admitted to surgery.

Despite being wounded to a kidney, physicians announced within a few hours that his condition was stable. Later Popov himself reassured the media from his hospital bed that he would soon be back in the water.

While the doctors have declared him out of danger, Popov's coach, Gennadi Touretski, fears for the sprinter's career, saying that tennis player Monica Seles was not as good now as she had been before she was stabbed in 1993. "Being a champion means being able to get through barriers," said Touretski. "It is a barrier for Alexander to keep improving at his age-Kieren Perkins can tell you the same thing. This is another barrier."

Popov lives in Canberra, Australia, where he trains with Touretski at the Australian Institute of Sport. Australian Swimming had hoped to headline Popov in a match race with American silver medallist Gary Hall at an international meet in Sydney in November. Negotiations with both swimmers had been near completion.

Meanwhile the state of affairs in Moscow are as grim as they appear. The city is run by mafia and considered very dangerous. After this incident, it is hardly surprising that Alex plans to stay in Australia, where he now owns a house. We wish him a speedy recovery...and a safe trip home.

Heyns strikes gold again

South Africa's Penny Heyns is seeing the fruits of her labours-and her success.

After striking gold in Atlanta, Heyns has signed an agreement with Vodacom for the single richest sponsorship ever concluded by a South African athlete. Worth more than 1 million rand (about $300,000), the sponsorship gives Vodacom the exclusive advertising, promotions, and endorsement rights to Penny Heyns in the telecommunications and cellular category in South Africa.

Heyns became the pride of South Africa after winning both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at the Atlanta Olympics. They were the first gold medals for South Africa in 44 years. Heyns is also the first woman to win gold in both breaststroke events at the same Games.

The deal also includes lucrative incentives for Heyns should she establish new world records or win major events.

Sam Ramsamy, President of the South African Olympic Committee and an IOC member, acknowledged the recognition of Heyns. "While talent and determination cannot be substituted, financial support for our sportspeople is absolutely essential if we are to maintain and raise the level of their achievements. In their short existence, Vodacom has been good to sport in South Africa. We thank them."

Heyns' success has already raised public awareness of swimming all over South Africa and will no doubt facilitate a new era of funding and increased participation. As the Managing Director of Vodacom, Alan Knott-Craig, said, "Sport will continue to be an extremely important catalyst in the ongoing reconciliation of South Africans."

Munich gold medal winner found dead

Australian Beverly Whitfield, 42, winner of the 200 breaststroke in 1972 was pronounced dead upon arrival by ambulance at Wollongong Hospital, on August 23, 1996.

The precise cause of her death has not been established. During the previous week she had suffered severe flu-like symptoms and complained of chest pains the previous weekend.

Whitfield's fame rested on her stunning upset win in Munich. Fourth at the 150, she surged to win, taking the lead with only 20 metres to go. Only 0.65 seconds separated the first three swimmers. Whitfield then took part in what was described as the most joyous victory ceremony of those Games.

She will be missed particularly by the underpriviledged children with whom she worked in Wollongong within the juvenile justice system.

Hungarian scandal

Four years ago the then- President of the Hungarian Swimming Association disappeared after duping unwary investors out of a half million dollars in a pyramid investment scheme. Interpol spent the next few years in a world-wide chase. He surrendered, sick and pennyless, last summer in Denmark.

Now another scam has surfaced. After the conclusion of the National Championships last June, a number of Olympic-bound swimmers had not met the Olympic entry requirements. No problem, a phantom competition was established. Bogus results were produced by the Hungarian Federation and duly couriered to the Intrenational Swimming Statisticians Association (ISSA) for inclusion in the world rankings. Alert journalists in Hungary noticed the bogus results on SWIM's internet site (http://www.swimnews.com) and were surprised by the date and location. There was no swimming competition in the said pool. In fact, a diving competition had been scheduled.

Increasing pressure by the Hungarian media led to the resignation of the current President of the Hungarian Swimming Association in mid-September.

Letter to the Editor

As SNC is advertising for a new coach at the National Training Centre Calgary, the rest of the country still doesn't know SNC's vision of swimming.

The Centre has been in operation for the past three years with no formal assessment. Many questions remain unanswered, the most important being: Are Centre-trained swimmers performing at a higher level than those training in clubs?

There are rumours of new centres opening soon in Montreal and Vancouver. Some coaches have even started to recruit swimmers to join them at these centres. How come coaches can tell swimmers they'll be coaching at yet-to-be announced centres? Shouldn't these positions be advertised? Are the centres serving the need of swimmers and a few coaches?

Over the past three years coaches in the field have had little feedback from the Centre in Calgary. How does SNC expect us to send any of our swimmers to one of these centres if we don't have a clue about what goes on there?

We are constantly bombarded by recruiting information from American universities, but have little information from any viable Canadian alternative. Is it any wonder so many of our best prospects go south?

What about coaches' education? Shouldn't the Centre play a key role? In Australia the AIS periodically informs coaches of their activities, thus sharing the vision of the sport and involving coaches in their program.

We performed superbly in Atlanta, and only a small amount of that success can be attributed to the Calgary Centre. Before we spend a lot more money on more centres, an evaluation must be done. It is our money in a certain sense.

Martin Gregoire, Natation Plus
Levis, Quebec

Letter to the Editor

I have received your August (Olympic) issue and would like to congratulate you on a splendid effort. I particularly appreciate the photographs, realizing well what is involved! Good reading too. Well done to all concerned!

Peter Hassall, Editor
Swimming Times, England

Remember... It's not true until it has been officially denied

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