Bill Pilczuk Details Road to “Upset of the 90s” in Beating Alexander Popov in Brett Hawke’s 150th Podcast

Bill Pilczuk
Photo Courtesy: Bill Collins / Swimming World Archive

The 1998 world 50 free champion Bill Pilczuk marked the 150th episode of Brett Hawke’s podcast to discuss the “upset of the decade” when he beat Alexander Popov at the 1998 World Championships.

Pilczuk detailed his early days in swimming where he was an average swimmer in high school and became a national junior college champion before transferring to Auburn in 1991. Pilczuk went over the sprint work that they did with coach Mike Bottom, who is now the head coach at the University of Michigan (12:00), as well as how being a better student made him a better swimmer.

Bill Pilczuk made his USA national team debut in 1994 by winning a swimoff with Jon Olsen (21:00) for the second 50 freestyle spot behind Gary Hall, Jr. It was at the 1994 Worlds where Pilczuk had his first interaction with Popov.

Pilczuk went over getting third at the 1996 Olympic Trials behind Hall and David Fox (24:30) where it wasn’t much of a disappointment for him. His time from Trials would have put him fifth in Atlanta and he discussed what it was like watching the Games in person and how it was aggravating to see his time be competitive.

Bill Pilczuk rebounded two years later to make the team for the 1998 World Championships in Perth as he was training for now Hall of Fame coach David Marsh. He went over the approach to the 50 free on day seven at the meet as he was required to attend every session of the championships and how monotonous that became. Pilczuk went over the race in 1998 (40:00) and Hawke went over his own recollection (42:30) of the race where his dad called him in the middle of the night to give him a play by play of the 50 free.

Pilczuk finished fourth in the 50 free at the 2000 Olympic Trials behind Hall and Anthony Ervin, who famously went on to tie for the gold medal in Sydney. Pilczuk went over the frustrations of that race (48:00) when the new bodysuits were allowed a short time period before Trials.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.