Denis Pimankov: ‘Krasnykh’s spot on the team isn’t even discussed’

The famous swimmer has estimated the layout before the Olympics

Denis Pimankov: ‘Krasnykh’s spot on the team isn’t even discussed’
Photo: vb.by

What can a relay team with Alexander Krasnykh achieve? Can Veronika Andrusenko and Grigory Tarasevich from Tatarstan compete in Tokyo? A silver Olympic medallist, world and two-time European champion Denis Pimankov has told Realnoe Vremya in an exclusive interview about this.

“From the most glittering to the most cautious forecasts”

Mr Pimankov, can we forecast potential wins and medals of our swimmers in Tokyo after the European Championships?

The forecasts are quite contradictory, from the most glittering hinting to a repetition of the triumph at the 1992 Olympics to the most cautious.

Can it be a repetition of the failure in Athens in 2004?

Simply the most cautious. It will get finally clear only in some 10 days when qualifiers in Australia and America are over. And then we can see the readiness of these swimming countries’ teams. Key changes can happen in relay teams. I think we have very strong positions in the 4 x 200 metre relay with Yevgeny Rylov, in the 4 x 100 metre freestyle with Kliment Kolesnikov.

A mixed relay inspires fears because the100 metre breaststroke isn’t our strong suit, though we can hope for Kirill Prigoda here.

Talking about individual events, Kolesnikov’s 100 metre freestyle, Anton Chupkov’s 100 metre breaststroke, Andrey Minakov’s strong positions in butterfly and 50 metre freestyle. Anastasia Kirpichnikova looked very convincing in the European qualifier in Kazan in 1,500 metre and 800 metre at the European Championships. I would also mention Ilya Borodin in the 400 metre medley, but it will be very tough. Though to be more precise, it will also be tough for Chupkov because the Japanese are strong, and I am sure that great results will be shown at the American and Australian championships.

You offer to look at the championships of Australia and America, can we look at the European Championships with such incidences as finals without Prigoda and Chupkov?

In this aspect, we can refer to the statistics that read that European championships have been held during the Olympic year since 2000. Over this time, only seven men have won the European, after that, they have won the Olympics too. Moreover, in all the cases, a world, European or Olympic record has had to be set to win. This is why we shouldn’t think that the results of the European Championships can be used for Tokyo, also because European swimmers aren’t in the lead compared to America, Australia and now Asia. But as for Russia, I am sure that the confidence our athletes felt cannot help but influence the fighting spirit, which is crucial.

Photo: ria56.ru
Key changes can happen in relay teams. I think we have very strong positions in the 4 x 200 metre relay with Yevgeny Rylov, in the 4 x 100 metre freestyle with Kliment Kolesnikov

“Tarasevich could be number one or two on any team”

Have the seven people repeated their European wins at the Olympics because of European swimmers’ relative weakness or because it is tough to be in peak shape two times in a row in such a relatively short term as two months between the championships and Olympics?

Yes, if we go into detail, we should look at the time between the end of qualifiers, the European championships and the Olympic Games. It is hard to be in peak shape for quite a long time, consequently, we can’t assume that somebody isn’t in shape. So he won’t have chances at the Olympics. For instance, Yevgeny Rylov swam the 100 metre with difficulty but he collected himself in the 200 metre and demonstrated a real sporting feat. Though he had a huge physical load, he showed such a good time that inspires hope in his fans.

Here we can remember that Grigory Tarasevich became a victim of an argument of our outstanding backstroke swimmers. He could have easily competed in the final of the 100 metre if he wasn’t third after Rylov and Kolesnikov. Moreover, Kolesnikov failed his semi-final in the 100 metre because he hadn’t recovered from the 100 metre freestyle. It turns out that Kliment rushed to kill two birds, though one bird could have been left for Tarasevich.

Yes, and according to the Olympic schedule, the same problem is going to arise on day two of the competition when the final of the 4 x 100 metre freestyle will be held. A semi-final of the 100 metre backstroke is scheduled to precede this event. Assuming that Kolesnikov will be performing in both competitions, I forecast that it will be very tough for him to recover. We already saw at the European Championships he didn’t have the time to recover. It is a big question if he will have the time in Tokyo, only Kliment with his coach can answer it. I think they will work on this during the last weeks before the Olympics because it is wrong not to compete in the 100 metre backstroke, but as I already said, the relay is potentially a gold medal for us.

As for Tarasevich, he is a top athlete who can be number one or two on any team. But in Russia, he has just monsters before him — Yevgeny and Kliment. Tarasevich is going to the Olympics with a qualification for the 200 metre. And it is a plus because Rylov and Kolesnikov will have an enormous load. There is a mixed 4x100 metre medley relay in which it is necessary to swim in a qualification heat too. In this respect, 52.9 Tarasevich needs to swim the 100 metre backstroke is a very decent result. This is why his help to the team will be priceless and I think the Executive Committee of the Federation will make the correct decision by including him in the Olympic squad.

Photo: minsport.tatarstan.ru
Tarasevich is a top athlete who can be number one or two on any team. But in Russia he has just monsters before him

“The conditions existing here for elite athletes’ training are recognised as one of the best in the world”

Back to your words that Rylov will help our 4 x 200 metre relay. Doesn’t the Olympic performance of Alexander Krasnykh who qualified for the relay in this event fourth question it?

The choice of 4 x 200 metre relay team members seems to me the most difficult decision for coaches because Martin Malyutin’s spot is firm. And there are five candidates for three places in the final. And I think a very wise decision was made to look at the state of swimmers until the last minute, including during the first days of the Olympics. Also, Ivan Grinyov will already have competed by this time, and his shape can be assessed. But at the same time, Krasnykh’s spot on the team isn’t discussed because there are semi-finals, and we need a lot of swimmers.

Discussing the men’s relay teams, we can find that absolutely different teams can compete in the 100 and 200 metre freestyle. Moreover, our key rivals, including England and the USA, have to field almost the same people for these relays. What happened to Russian swimming that we have now faced a problem of picking athletes, not finding them?

The selection of relay teams demonstrates the systemic work in a country. And those conditions existing here for elite athletes’ training are recognised as one of the best in the world. The competition that was created among young swimmers allowed the lads to grow. For instance, it is Minakov, Shchyogolev. In fact, they are junior team members. But they aren’t going to sit in the shadow of national team leaders but they are already trying on this status. Same Vladislav Grinyov didn’t manage to qualify individually in the 100 metre finishing behind Minakov...

Grinyov, of course, was unlucky because of the postponement of the Olympics because the previous 2019 Russian Championships were jokingly named “the Grinyov championships”.

Exactly. And now our national team has a mixture of experienced masters and amazing youth allowing making quite a long bench of substitutes. And the head coach of the national team now thinks about other things: not to think whom to field but choose from those who can fight for medals.

Photo: sport-express.ru
And now our national team has a mixture of experienced masters and amazing youth allowing making quite a long bench of substitutes

“There is going to be a series of tests before making a decision on Andrusenko”

Let’s switch to women and start with...

With breaststroke?

No, I wanted to talk about Viktoria Andrusenko from the Tatarstan team.

For Viktoria, the qualification was very tough, as I understand, it hasn’t ended yet. After my talk with team Russia’s head coach Sergey Chepik, I understood that it isn’t enough to set up electronics in the swimming pool in Krugly Lake for all candidates to swim their 200 metres.

Because they cannot swim without the wave from the neighbouring lane?

Yes, and it matters. This is why a series of tests will be done, and this decision will be made right before the application deadline. Who else do you want to talk about?

I would offer Yefimova because the swimmer draws the attention of both sports and sports-related journalism.

Yulia is a unique athlete in every sense of the word because she is one of the most talented ones. She supports the interest in swimming at the top level even with the fact she isn’t on the national team. I think the decision that she didn’t qualify for the 200 metre breaststroke isn’t discussed even though her amazing step in the Mare Nostrum Cup and the results she demonstrated at the European Championships. Yefimova doesn’t have a ticket to Tokyo in this event, while she missed her chance of getting it. It is a big question if she is sad about this because Yulia has serious experience, she will go to her fourth Olympics, and it will be much easier to focus on one distance, the 100 metre breaststroke. Also, there are two relays, medley and mixed. The question is who will be fielded at the last minute. Yulia swam at the Europeans, but the coaches can prefer a male swimmer.

As for Yevgenia Chikunova, she is certainly our hope. At least, to get to the final where she can fight for a medal.

As for Maria Temnikova, there is a question: can she improve her results at the Russian Championships? To be honest, no. But she met all qualification rules, won a ticket, and we have no right to take it away from her.

Yulia is a unique athlete in every sense of the word because she is one of the most talented ones. She supports the interest in swimming at a top level even with the fact she isn’t on the national team

Drawing an analogy with football: now CSKA didn’t qualify for European cups, however, Sochi is ready to compete. Though CSKA has more European experience, should the club be given the ticket? The same happens to our female swimmers: can’t we send Yefimova?

Absolutely true. Because our qualifiers lose their meaning then. Once there was a precedent when Ian Thorpe overbalanced and fell into the water and didn’t manage to qualify in Australia. Then his opponent simply gave his ticket to Thorpe who became an Olympic champion in the end. But his was a personal desire. In the case of Temnikova, I know that this athlete has been dreaming of competing at the Olympics for long, she was born in 1995 and perhaps Tokyo 2020 is her last chance of making an Olympic debut.

By Dzhaudat Abdullin
Tatarstan