By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, November 12. IT would appear that Russian Alexander Popov is very likely to leave Australia early in the New Year after receiving an offer to set up a home base outside Berne in Switzerland with his wife and two boys.
The news comes after he returned home to Canberra on Sunday after spending three weeks in Europe with his long-time coach Gennadi Touretski. Popov, who turns thirty-one next Saturday, has already made it known that he intends to swim at the World Championships in Barcelona next year and finish his glittering career at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Gennadi Touretski told SwimInfo this morning about the difficulties Popov faced managing his role with the IOC and maintaining his training program here in Australia. "The travel is a big problem for him especially now that he has many official commitments both in Russia and with the IOC in Europe."
Touretski admitted that he would also be likely to leave Australian shores for some time at least to prepare Popov for the World Championships. "For me, I am quite happy here but for him (Popov) it would be much better in Europe," he said.
Touretski indicated he has several consultancy projects to consider and that since his forced departure from the Australian Institute of Sport in July there have been little opportunities on offer Down Under.
Either way, Australia will lose one of the best swimming resources to grace her shores. Touretski was originally offered a coaching position at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra after the 1992 Olympics and the 20-year-old Popov joined him soon after. The largely unheralded Popov had just beaten two of the great American freestyle sprinters in Barcelona, reigning Olympic champions and world record-holders Matt Biondi and Tom Jager, to claim the 50 and 100m freestyle golden double. Popov still holds the world marks for the 50 free (long course) and 100 free (short course)