Passages: Olympic Silver Medalist Georgy Prokopenko Dies at Age 84

American Chet Jastremski & Soviet Georgy Prokopenko. Photo Courtesy: Swimming World November 1964

Olympic silver medalist Georgy Prokopenko passed away Wednesday, May 5, 2021. He was a two-time Olympian for the Soviet Union at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games.

Prokopenko won the silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, finishing behind Australia’s Ian O’Brien, who broke the world record at 2:27.8, with Prokopenko in second at 2:28.2. According to the Branch of the NOC of Ukraine in the Lviv region, he swam for coach Alexander Andriyovych Tkachenko, and graduated from Lviv State University of Physical Culture in 1959.

After completing his swimming career in 1971, he worked for three years at the Lviv sports association Dynamo as the director of a swimming school. He worked as a coach and teacher at the Institute of Physical Culture, and then for over 30 years in the Department of Physical Education of the National University.

Prokopenko was a two-time European champion in the 200 breaststroke at the 1962 and 1966 Europeans and also was on the winning 400 medley relay team for the Soviet Union in 1962.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke – 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

As printed in the November 1964 Swimming World Magazine.

America’s best bet, (Chet) Jastremski, got off the blocks in a hurry and led after 50 meters. He couldn’t hold it, and at 100 meters, (Georgy) Prokopenko had taken the lead by about three meters with (Ian) O’Brien only a stroke behind the American. (Egon) Henninger was then fourth a few strokes to the rear. Then O’Brien began to move. He caught Prokopenko just five meters from home, as the two waged a furious duel down the stretch. The youngster won the gold medal from the 27-year old Soviet by a matter of inches. O’Brien’s time was 2:27.8, Prokopenko, 2:28.2; Jastremski, 2:29.6; (Aleksandr) Tutakaev, 2:31.0; Henninger, 2:31.1; (Osamu) Tsurumine, 2:33.6; (Wayne) Anderson, 2:35.0; and (Vladimir) Kosinsky, 2:38.1.

O’Brien said after the race, “I swam much faster than I expected. My next target is the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. I want to continue swimming until the age of 21 or 22.”

The unlucky Russian, who equaled the former world record, is 27 years old. He has trained hard for this event every day for the last two years. He said: “We do water workouts daily, very little body building. In Russia, we are more proficient in the breaststroke because we know more about this stroke than freestyle and the others. I don’t know if I will continue to compete.'”

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