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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Young Duo Prepares for a Splash

When some 600 swimmers dive into Atlanta's Olympic pool this month, the eyes of the world will focus on, among others, a trio of Russians, world and Olympic champions Alexander Popov and Denis Pankratov.

Thanks to their efforts Russia quickly rose to the very top of the swimming world. In the last World Championships in Rome in September 1994 the trio outperformed the entire 26-member U.S. team in the number of individual golds -- four-to-one.

Popov, undefeated in a major international competition in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle since 1992, lives and trains in Australia along with his coach, Gennady Turetsky.

The 25-year-old Yekaterinburg native won global acclaim as the world's fastest swimmer at the 1992 Barcelona Games when he handily defeated the former swimming king, American Matt Biondi, in both distances, setting an Olympic record at 50 meters (21.91) in the process.

This time Popov will be without the support of another Russian ace, Yevgeny Sadovy, who in Barcelona at age 18 captured Olympic golds in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle. He also anchored the winning CIS men's 200-meter relay team, setting three world records in the process.

Sadovy abruptly announced his retirement from competition in March, citing health reasons. Nevertheless, Russia should have plenty of ammunition in Atlanta, relying heavily on its new generation of swimmers.

Last year Pankratov was voted the world's best swimmer by FINA, the governing body for the sport. The reigning world champion and the world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, Pankratov, 22, was also named Russia's top athlete in 1995 in a nationwide poll among journalists.

Earlier this year, FINA announced that it will not ratify Pankratov's two short-course world records in the 100- and 200-meter distances that he set in a February World Cup meet in Paris.

The official ruling was that Pankratov didn't take mandatory drug tests after his record performances, but the swimmer does not rule out a possible sabotage toward him.

"Someone wanted to start all that noise around my name, to get me out of my mental preparation for the Games so I may use a lot of my energy trying to defend myself," he said recently. "But only made me angry, real angry, and when I'm angry the opposition will have no chance against me."