Past Olympics Athletes >> Vladimir Salnikov

Vladimir Salnikov

Vladimir Salnikov

Date of birth





183 cm


70.0 kg


400m, 800m, 1500m freestyle

World records

11 (400m, 800m, 1500m freestyle)

Olympic Games (4 medals - 4 gold)

  • 400m freestyle: 1st (1980)
  • 1500m freestyle: 1st (1980, 1988), 5th (1976)
  • 4x200m freestyle relay: 1st (1980)

World Championships (6 medals - 4 gold, 2 silver)

  • 400m: 1st (1978, 1982)
  • 1500m: 1st (1978, 1982)
  • 4x200m freestyle relay : 2nd (1978, 1982)

European Championships (5 medals - 4 gold, 1 silver)

  • 400m: 1st (1983), 2nd (1981)
  • 1500m: 1st (1977, 1981, 1983)

Swimming with the enemy

It might seem unlikely, but the story of Vladimir Salnikov's unwilling attitude to water is true.

One trip to the swimming pool in Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg) as a six-year-old child had a double effect: he did not want to return and, ultimately, he went on to become the man who broke all middle distance records previously set by the domineering Americans.

In the 1500m and 400m, Salnikov became quite untouchable.

Following a chance meeting with coach Igor Koshkine while swimming with friends, Salnikov began to train seriously. Koshkine, evidently, was aware of the young athlete's potential.

A fifth place in the 1500m in Montreal (1976) was simply a ripple on the water. What was to follow in Berlin (1978) and Moscow (1980), would prove a veritable tsunami.

The world championships in Berlin proved the turnaround as Salnikov took world titles in both disciplines and America now had a fight on its hands.

Unbeaten in 61 races

Yet, ironically, Salnikov subsequently moved to the United states - both to train and refine his technique, and to study.

Five hours and 20km per day coupled with weight training was a rigorous programme and he combined his sport with time spent studying for a physical education degree.

The Moscow Games, without the added competitive edge of the Americans, only served to reinforce Salnikov's time spent across the Atlantic, as he won the 400m and 1500m freestyle races adding a third Olympic title in the 4x200m freestyle as the Soviet Union dominated affairs.

But prior to the 1984 Olympics, boycotted by the Soviet team, Salnikov mysteriously fell ill.

Returning to competition in Madrid (1986), it would take the encouragement and professional help of his wife before a return to form in 1988 would make him one of the few swimmers to ever regain an Olympic title eight years after his initial win.

This amazing comeback, however, proved to be Salnikov's swan song. The first man to swim 1500m in under 15 minutes, and who remained unbeaten in that discipline between October 1977 and August 1986 a stretch of 61 races, retired following the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

He had just won his fourth Olympic gold in the 1500m after the trio of titles in 1980.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.


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