Breaststroker Roman Sludnov has been practicing hard all the 300 days which passed since he had to resign to a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics. For he and his mother-coach Natalia Roschina believe there is only one place on the pedestal worth fighting for - the #1 spot. Hard work and perseverance paid off, and at the latest championship of Russia last June Roman "swam out" of the hitherto unassailable one minute in the 100 m distance, thus breaking the one minute barrier in the slowest swimming discipline. As Sport-Express daily wrote on the occasion, "Sludnov has completed what Tarzan had begun !". Of course, reference was made to the legendary American Johnny Weismuller who in the now remote 1922 swam the 100m faster than one minute (58,6 sec.) in the free style. Lans Larson (USA) broke the one minute record in 1960 (59,0) in butterfly, Thompson Mann (USA) did better than 1 min. in 1964 (59,6 sec.) swimming on the back. And finally the Russian Roman Sludnov showed 59.97 in the now-lucky-for-him water of Olimpiysky swimming pool in breaststroke.
Calling his phenomenal result a "much needed record - a revenge over the Sydney bronze", this 21 year-old giant from Omsk (1m90, 78 kg) went to swim at the world championship in Fukuoka (Japan) last July full of confidence and a burning desire to keep breaking world records.
Which he did again as early as in the semi-finals where he beat the record of his rival from the US Ed Moses. As Reuters wrote on the occasion the Russian breaststroker "gatecrashed Australia's pool party (the team gleaning the most gold in Fukuoka) when Sludnov broke his own 100 meters again slicing 0,03 off his 24-day-old mark of 59,97 seconds. In this record -breaking 1/2 finals Sludnov was third at the turn behind American Ed Moses and Canadian Morgan Knabe, but turned up the pace on the return length and his rivals has no answer to the Russian's smooth power. After that race Roman said it was Ed Moses to forced him to speed it up as he felt he was morally hurt after the first 50 m when Moses had a half-corpse advance over the Russian.
Before the finals in Fukuoka Roman dismissed with humor all questions as to how he was going to swim ("postarayus plyt brassom" - "I will try to swim in breaststroke style") as he was dying to prove to his nemesis from Sydney times (Olympic gold medalist from Italy Domenico Fiorovanti) who is the strongest world's swimmer in their discipline. Which he did leaving the Italian with a silver medal and Ed Moses with a bronze, though Romans' timing in the finals was just 1,00,16.
Starting from the 1950s Russian breadstrokers Leonid Meshkov, Vladimir Minashkin, Leonid Kolesnikov, Georgy Prokopenko, Vasily Kosinsky, Nikolai Pankin and Vasily Ivanov have been breaking many a world record. True, none of them has become an Olympic Champion.
Nor has Roman Sludnov yet. And lest we jinx him , we will go against logic and not declare him an otherwise logical pretender to gold at the Olympics in Athens -2004. Who knows what surprises fate may have in store for God-gifted people ? E.g. last August, shortly after his victory in Fukuoka, Roman set a new world record in ST. Petersburg, this time around at the 50m distance. Performing at the world championship amongst servicemen in swimming disciplines, Sludnov showed 27, 25 sec. in the 50m distance, slicing 0,14 off the previous record set by Ed Moses on March 31. However, Sludnov's results won't be registered as world record as the electronic system failed at the Red Army swimming Poll in St. Petersburg. As the judges explained, Sludnov (this muscled giant !) "didn't push strong enough on the finish board" so the result had to be fixed with a hand stopwatch.
In any case , the only man in the world to swim 100 m breaststroke in under one minute has already become one of the most outstanding swimmers of modern times. Time and again local swimming coaches bring up new worthy leaders of its swimming team who follows in the wake of the glorious traditions of national breaststrokers.
Now if only Mother-Russia could work on its electronic systems...
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