Powerful Popova Performance Breaks 200 Free Russian Record

MOSCOW, Russia, May 15. ALTHOUGH Daria Ustinova still kept on earning kudos as the new 15-year-old darling of Russia swimming, Veronika Popova captured the headline at Russian Nationals with her new national record.

Popova popped a Russian record in the women’s 200-meter free semifinals with a 1:56.39. That performance moved her to fifth in the SwimVortex world rankings behind only Sarah Sjostrom (1:55.04), Emma McKeon (1:55.68), Federica Pellegrini (1:55.69) and Katie Ledecky (1:56.27). The swim also surpassed her own record of 1:56.84 set at the 2012 London Olympics with Popova now starting down sub-1:56 during finals. Arina Openysheva placed well behind with a second-place 2:00.00.

Daria Ustinova, the newly-minted backstroke queen in Russia, won the women’s 50-meter back in 28.18. That pushed her to 10th in the world rankings, bettering her Russia junior record of 28.27 set during semis. Alexandra Papusha placed second in 28.71 tonight with Maria Kamenev taking third in 29.11.

Russian-record holder Nikolay Skvortsov, still putting up strong times as a 30-year-old, won the men’s 200-meter fly in 1:56.98. That moved him to 16th in the world rankings, although it is a few seconds off his blazing 1:54.32 Russian record from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Alexander Kudashov took second in 1:57.42 to make the European championships. Artem Lazarev placed third in 1:59.40.

Vitalina Simonova turned in a 2:24.93 to win the women’s 200-meter breast. That swim pushed her to 12th in the world rankings, but still highlights the huge void in Russian women’s breaststroke with former world-record holder Yuliya Efimova now on the sidelines for 16 months following a positive doping test. Anna Belusova finished second tonight in 2:27.67 with Anastasia Chaun earning third in 2:28.48.

The Sizzling Siberian Vlad Morozov lacked a little bit of the top-end speed he used in semis to move to fifth in the world with a 48.25 as he won the men’s 100-meter free this evening in 48.31. That’s still some serious consistency as he heads into the summer hoping to contend with top times from the likes of James Magnussen (47.59), Cameron McEvoy (47.65), Cesar Cielo (48.13) and Nathan Adrian (48.23). Alexander Sukhorukov (48.66) and Sergei Fesikov (48.76) placed second and third tonight.

Morozov returned with a tie for the men’s 50-meter breaststroke as part of a single-session sprint-triple. He opened with a 28.05 in the semis of the sprint breast, then won the 100-meter free before tying Andrei Nikolaev for the 50-meter breast title with matching 27.78s. Igor Golovin managed third-place honors in 28.00.

Ivan Trofimov downed his Penza training partner Dmitiry Gorbunov in the men’s 200-meter IM finale, 1:59.87 to 2:00.39, just missing Semen Makovich’s Russian record of 1:59.50 set last year in Dubai. Alexander Tikhonov wound up third with a 2:00.66.

Elizabeth Gorshkova moved up to 17th in the world rankings with a winning time of 16:34.70 in the women’s 1500-meter free. Anastasia Ivanenko touched second in 16:44.20 with Irina Arzhantseva earning third overall in 16:59.08.

Meanwhile, Andrei Shabasov lead the way in the men’s 200-meter back semis with a 1:59.45, while Grigori Tarasevich posted a 1:59.64 for second. Svetlana Chimrova paced the women’s 100-meter fly semis with a time of 58.68 with Popova returning after her national record in the 200-meter free to qualify second in 59.05.

Moscow picked up a huge hometown ovation when Dimitry Ermakov (1:489.83), Artem Lobuzov (1:49.33), Paul Medvetskaya (1:50.78) and Igor Degtyarev (1:51.79) clinched the men’s 800-meter free relay title in 7:21.73. Moscow then closed the curtains on the evening with another relay victory. Alexandra Papusha (1:01.78), Svetlana Chimrova (58.28), Vera Kalashnikova (1:10.42) and Rosaliya Nasretdinova (55.01) powered their way to a 4:05.49 to win the women’s 400-meter medley relay.