Super Coach Touretski Robbed of Priceless Olympic Medals

By Stephen Thomas

CANBERRA, Australia. GENNADI TOURETSKI, coach of four time Olympic gold medalist, Alex Popov, and dual Sydney Olympic gold medalist, Michael Klim. had his home robbed on March 31 of valuable items including a safe containing priceless swimming medals given to him by the two swimmers.

Among the medals stolen included Popov's 100 freestyle gold from the Atlanta Olympics which the Russian former world record-holder had given his coach on his return to Australia after recovering from a near fatal knife attack in Moscow after the Games in 1996. The gold medal won by Michael Klim at the '98 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur as his part of the world record-breaking Australian 4×200 freestyle team and a bronze medal given to him by former Soviet swimmer, Gennadi Prigoda, won in the 50 freestyle in Seoul 1988.

The robbery had occurred while Touretski's wife, Inna, had been away from their family home in the Canberra suburb of Bruce to pick up the coach at the airport on his return from the Australian National Championships in Hobart. Touretski had just been named a member of the Australian coaching team for the World Championships in July.

After considerable media coverage of the robbery on April 2, police received an anonymous tip-off and the safe was found in a Canberra lake with the medals, estimated to be worth around US$40,000, undamaged.

"The medals are valuable not because I would trade these medals but because they belong to my heart," a much relieved Touretski said when told the good news.

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