By Steve Thomas
Alex Popov, the Russian dual-double Olympic freestyle sprint Champion, sounded a clear warning to his rivals come September in Sydney, with a sizzling 21.99 seconds for the 50 free at the Russian National
Championships. His time was the fifth fastest swim all-time over the distance and the first time since 1992, when Popov won gold in Barcelona in 21.91, that a swimmer has gone under the 22 second barrier. Americans Tom Jager (twice) and Matt Biondi are the only others to achieve the feat.
Popov, who has been based in Canberra, Australia, at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) since 1993, continues to train under former Russian coach Gennadi Touretski. Touretski told Swimming World, that Popov
had been doing "a lot of miles" this year prior to leaving for his final European tour in preparation for Sydney. He indicated Popov has been swimming very fast in training, getting under 22 seconds and this is reflected in his current performance.
After the Russian trials Popov, with compete at the European Championships in July before heading back to Australia for his final Olympic preparations in an attempt to become the first male swimmer to win gold at three consecutive Olympics.
Also noted that Russian Roman Sludnov broke the 100 breast world record in the semi-final of the Russian Trials in 1:00.36 taking .24 off Fred deBurghgraeve's '96 Atlanta mark.