swimming

Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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Michael Phelps keeps close eye on swimming’s new international stars

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps believes time is ticking on his last remaining individual world record.

Phelps has held the world record in the 400m individual medley since 2002. His lowered it eight times total, ultimately to 4 minutes, 3.84 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“Hopefully, maybe fingers crossed, I’m going to be greedy and try to keep that record for one more year,” he said in a sitdown interview in France on Thursday.

Nobody swum within a second of it until this past June. That’s when France’s Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old pupil of Phelps’ career-long coach Bob Bowman, rattled Phelps’ time. He went under world record pace through 350 meters before falling 44 hundredths shy of it at the world championships.

“I’m excited to see a kid come up and challenge that record,” Phelps said. “That’s what I want. I would love that.”

Marchand is a student-athlete at Arizona State. Phelps lives in Arizona. Marchand said at worlds in June that they have not met, but they have messaged.

“He reminds me a lot of myself with the competitiveness when you get into it, kind of a dogfight in a race,” Phelps said. “He doesn’t lose many of those.”

The ultra-competitive Phelps may have motivation for his world record to last one more year. If it makes it through next June, he will break the record for longest time holding the world record in an individual Olympic swimming event since World War II, according to Swimming Stats.

The next world championships are in July. Marchand is also preparing for an experience that Phelps never had — a home Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“To be able to swim here, on your home soil, I will say I am jealous,” Phelps said.

Phelps believes another world record is on borrowed time — the 200m freestyle held by German Paul Biedermann since 2009 (1:42.00).

“If there’s one person on the planet that goes under 1:42 in the 200m free, it’s probably Popovici,” he said.

Phelps was referring to David Popovici, the Romanian phenom who just turned 18, one month after breaking a 13-year-old world record in the 100m free (46.86). Over three meets this summer, Popovici swam six of the 20 fastest 100m free times in history.

“I mean, the kid went 46.9, 47.0, 47.0, 47.1, 47.1, 47.2 in the 100m frees this year,” Phelps said. “I pay attention to all that stuff.”

In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Popovici finished higher in the 200m free (fourth) than the 100m (seventh).

Last month, he swam the fourth-fastest 200m free time in history — 1:42.97. That was one hundredth off Phelps’ personal best in the event, which Phelps dubbed his best race of his eight-gold-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“To see somebody swim as efficiently as he does, his stroke is very good,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of time before he gets even stronger and swims even faster.”

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Caeleb Dressel ‘in the best place I’ve ever been’ during break from swimming

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NBC Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines believes Caeleb Dressel‘s current break from swimming will last six months (into December), leaving him plenty of time to recharge for major meets in 2023 and 2024.

Gaines spoke on the monthly Olympic and Paralympic show “Chasing Gold: Paris 2024,” which premieres Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC (and will be available on Peacock starting Monday). Gaines said he has communicated with Dressel over the last year, including since Dressel took a break from swimming since June’s world championships.

Gaines noted that, after Dressel won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, he suggested last fall that the swimmer take as much as six months off.

“When I talked to him a couple of days ago, he said, ‘I didn’t really do that [last year], but now I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,'” Gaines said.

Dressel withdrew on unspecified medical grounds from June’s world championships in Budapest after winning gold in his first two finals. He spoke publicly about it for the first time on Sept. 4.

“I haven’t swam since worlds and can honestly say I have been happy without swimming,” Dressel shared on social media. “I really miss it though. A few things I’ve done… I finally went on a honeymoon to Iceland, I bought a tractor, hiked another section of the Appalachian Trail, swam with some manatees. I know I can have swimming and happiness. I had them both at one point in my life and I’m working on it. If you need a break, take one. I’ll be back.”

Gaines said the last sentence of that statement was the most important. The next major meet is in late June: the U.S. trials for the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

“If Caeleb ends up taking six months off, which I believe he will, it’s going to take him about three months [to get the feel back for the water],” Gaines said. “No problem. We still have a long way to go for Paris. I think he’ll be ready both mentally and physically when we get to those Olympic Games.”

Gaines also addressed the state of the Katie LedeckyAriarne Titmus rivalry and rising Romanian star David Popovici in the “Chasing Gold” interview.

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