“During the final selection for Olympiad-1976 I was only the third. Really, they could not to include me in the National team. I ceded to Valentin Parinov about 20 seconds. I was coolly present in the team and I was simply happy, that I was in accepted. In spite of the fact, that I was the only one among Soviet long-distance swimmers, who entered in the final race of 1500 m freestyle. I was waiting noting from my-self, zero pressure of responsibility and a joy of Olympic festivity did not abandoned me. My coach Igor Mikchailovich Koshkin told me: “If you will improve your previous performance, it will be great!” So, pick-me-up, I finished the fifth with a new European record in 1500 m and with another one record in 800 m into the race. An American swimmer Brian Goodell, who became an Olympic champion, first throw his arms up after the final touch of pool’s board. Later on we were rivalling many times. For instance, after European championship in 1977, which I won, during the Match USSR-USA I was terribly beaten by him. And of course, all people were waiting for our new duel and my revenge…” Vladimir Salnikov
Vladimir SALNIKOV born on the 1th May 1960 in Leningrad (USSR), 4-times Olympic champion, many times World, Europe and USSR champion, may times records-holder of World, Europe and USSR in 1500 m, 800 m & 400 m freestyle. Honoured Sports Master. Graduated from swim club “Ecran” (Leningrad). Coach: Igor Mikchailovich Koshkin.
From February 2010 – President of Russian Swimming Federation.
How it was at Moscow Olympide-80
“One year before Olympic Games-1980 we have changed the main place of our basic preparation. In 1979 a new swimming pool was put into service in Kharkov (Ukraine). Following Koshkin’s idea this centre was nominated by an abbreviated name composed from three first letters of the words “Ecran” (Salnikov’s native swim club), Kharkov and Olympiad – “EKHO”. For the first time in our country it was organized practically an ideal model of complete training cycle, resolving all necessary training tasks, as well as educative aims. At the same time another preparation’s base was created on Krugloye (Round) lake, near Moscow. So, national team was arbitrarily devised in two parts, and they immediately started to compete with each other. Training loads were also on the level of conditions, and up to now I respect myself, that I was able to support all this. That year I tested to put into practice three times trainings per day on the water of Tzacha river (Tzachkadzor town, Armenia).
It was great, that after them, sleeping, I was dreaming to be swimming just on vicious circle. Then we had training sessions in Austria and USA, while there twice, in Mission Viejo to Marc Shubert’ club and we were swimming together with Jack Nelson’s boys in Fort Lauderdale. Reveille every morning at 4 h 45 expanded me a new vision of my own possibilities. Once I burned down completely on children’s competitions, really to the ground. I was shaking myself, nervously thinking, how it will be in the race? So, I aggravated my personal result by 40 seconds! And after that I realised, what for I was so nervous? And it was a nice lesson for me. Hereafter I began to learn, how to take away my worry. Before Moscow Olympic Games, as well as during competitions, I was using self-regulation system, trying to reduce my emotions by special exercises, working with psychologists of national team.
In 1975 when Koshkin was telling us that we will prepare for Olympic Games and not for win there, as to us, we did not even imagine our participation there. On the eve of the Games-80 the situation was already completely different, and in order not to be destroyed, I was using the practice of auto-training…
Even after a victory on World championships-78 in 400 m freestyle, I was never considered it as my own distance, only like an additional to my favourite 1500 m. That was why, when I became Olympic champion in 400 m, I did felt practically nothing, everything was passed without any super emotions. Fesya (nickname of Serguei Fesenko, champion of XXII Olympic Games in 200 m butterfly), inspired our team, winning a gold medal on the first day of competitions. As to me, in complete serenity I was preparing for 1500 m. But suddenly Koshkin approached to me and strongly told: “You will swim in final relay 4 x 200 m free.” I replayed: “Igor Mikchailovich, I can’t…” His answer was something like that: “Soldier, go rapidly in fighting formation!”
I knew that this relay’s quarter was preparing for a long time for this start, and the fact that I was recruited to the final race signified, that it was something not in order in the quartet. Accepting this brutal force from my boss, I swam not so bad in the final, which helped us to draw more away from silver’s team. Already during Olympic Games-80 up to ten persons per day approached me and demanded: “Well, Vladimir, will you break a World record?” And it was really disturbing. So, I was obliged to retire, to barricade myself, to take a detective story and to plunge into virtual world. At night before the final I was badly sleeping, but it was not excited for me. In the morning in order not to lose water’s feeling I swam a little bit, the final race in 1500 m was before me. Two other Soviet swimmers participated in it, Edourd Petrov and Alexey Chaev. This boy was my sparring partner and a real animal during our common trainings. He constantly agitated me and even overtook me on several competitions.
There came an evening of the main for me Olympic day. After warming I put on me all warm clothes, visited auto-training séance and after that lightly relaxing massage. But in track-suit, because my skin was already shaved off by razor “Neva”, and every touching of it provoked unpleasant sensations. Last minutes I was distracted my-self with a book. In call-room nobody saw each other, thinking that any visual contact could resolve the fate of the race.
I had only exchanged with my friends by routine phrase about heavy loading, it was such a fashion to diminish our real conditions. But there was already tribunes’ roar, and we frizzed waiting for a starting signal. It was no falls start and I swam the firs 100 m in 58 seconds, and after, like a chronometer, every 100 m exactly by one minute. Between 8th and 10th hundreds I was a little bit got out of time, I wanted to look at lateral indicator board and to be guided by a current time. At the same time a physical fatigue was rolling on my, and I realised that everything is OK with a victory, but a record could go away, and I took the risk. So, I suggested myself that in this time distance was not 1500 m, but 1400 m only, and I began to finish. Before a next to last turning I waked up myself and turned to the final hundred meters. According to my feelings, it was as railway sleepers were attached to my arms and legs. After of rather failed turning for the final 50 meters I sensed with all my body vibrating reaction of tribunes and I realised that there something unimaginable was in the pool! I mobilised myself again and as in the fog I rushed to finish, touched a pool board, hardly raised my hands, tried to smile, but it was something as a grin. Waiting to euphoria, but it was later. I was feeling only a deep tiredness and complete satisfaction – 14.58,27, a new Olympic and World record! At once I saw Waitz (Serguei Waitzekhovsky, general manager of Soviet national team in 1971-1983) and all our team in the pool’s tribunes – it was there a real storm!!!
Between thousands letters that I received after this performance, mainly were sincere congratulations, but in one mail somebody demanded to send him running shoes. Not everybody knows my address, and even in one letter it was simply written: Moscow, Vladimir Salnikov. It was very strange, but I received it.
When a next season started, it was incredibly difficult to me to find motivation to continue again to work, but after first trainings I felt, that I was crossed by locomotive, gloomy thoughts disappeared, and I began preparation to Olympic Games in Los Angeles. But it was already another story…”
“Swimming” Magazine N3 (2010)/Photos: Archives of Mr. Swimy/Eglish translation: Serge Wodes