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Popov Says He's Out of Champs, Klim Says Maybe Not -- July 18, 2001

FUKUOKA, Japan. July 18. RUSSIA'S Alex Popov confirmed today he probably will miss the World Championships in Fukuoka, but Michael Klim, his training partner, said the Czar could make a late appearance.

Popov, who has tonsilitis and is currently recovering in a Moscow hospital, told FINA by phone that he became ill while attending the International Olympic Committee meeting which ended in Moscow on Monday.

"There is a chance of my condition worsening if I were to swim. I have to take antibiotics and stay in the hospital for several more days," the 29-year-old Canberra-based swimmer said.

Klim confirmed that the Russian had phoned him to say he was "doubtful" for the World Championships.

"I spoke to Alex a few days ago and he's obviously not well. It's unfortunate not to see him competing," Klim said on Wednesday.

However, Klim hinted that he thought Popov could make a late recovery in time for the main pool competition, which kicks off on Sunday.

"He's no stranger to suddenly coming out of illness. He said he was doubtful, but he may still come," said Klim.

The Russian swimming federation has not officially withdrawn Popov, who won gold medals in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, but he will remain in the hospital at least until Friday.

Dutch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband, who halted Popov's bid to repeat the same double at last year's Sydney Olympics by winning gold in the 100, said that he was saddened to hear about the Russian's illness.

"That's awful because it's always nice to race him. I respect him very much and we always have close races," he told reporters in Fukuoka.

Popov, who went on to finish a disappointing sixth in the 50 free in Sydney, has returned to form this year, posting the world's fastest time of 22.91 seconds this year in the one lap sprint.