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Popov Heads Strong Russian Olympic Team -- May 26, 2004

MOSCOW, May 25. ALEXANDER Popov, the "Czar" of sprint swimming, heads up a small but powerful Russian team that will compete in this summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

"We picked 26 men and four women following the conclusion of the national championships," Gennadi Alyoshin said today. "But we also have six other women who are close to Olympic qualifying standards and will have another chance to prove themselves in the next few weeks."

The Russian team includes three European champions aside from Popov: Yuri Prilukov (1500 free), Stanislava Komarova (200 backstroke) and Natalia Soutiaguina (50 butterfly). Former breaststroke world record-holders Roman Sloudnov (100 breast) and Dmitri Komornikov (200 breast) were also named to the team.

Others include: Andrei Kapralov (100 and 200 freestyle), Arkady Vyatchanin and Yevgeny Alyoshin (both 100 and 200 backstroke), Igor Marchenko and Yevgeni Korotyshkin (both 100 butterfly), Nikolai Skvortsov and Anatoli Poliakov (both 200 butterfly), and Elena Bogomazova (100 and 200 breaststroke).

For Popov, 32, this will be his last Olympic Games. He won both the 50 and 100 freestyle at the 1992 and '96 Games, an unprecedented double- double. The former world record-holder in the 100m free (48.21), he still holds the global standard in the 50 (21.64).