‘I wouldn’t hurry to talk about the alternation of generations’

Tokyo silver medallist Alexander Krasnykh sums the Olympic results up

Alexander Krasnykh’s silver in the relay is one of the key achievements of Tatarstan athletes at the Olympics in Tokyo. The athlete of Sintez Aquatics Club was one of the sixth swimmers who are usually named “the pride of the nation” and in fact, it is really Russian pride. A silver at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, silver and gold at the 2018 and 2021 European Championships respectively and the current second place. Krasnykh was on relay teams four times, this team is probably one of the most stable ones in Russian sport. Realnoe Vremya exclusively interviewed one of the leaders of Russian swimming in the last Olympic four years.

“Three months after the qualification a person is completely different

Alexander, this season, you had three important competitions. It is the Russian and European Championships plus the Olympics. Where do you think you had the best shape?

As the result shows, I was at the peak in the Russian nationals. The pre-Olympic European Championships were a usual competition, we didn’t prepare for it. And the result we achieved there is rather big happiness and luck. As for me, I showed my time I usually swim during this period, after the end of the country’s championship. It is yet hard for me to assess what happened at the Olympics because of the absence of such experience, but I suspect that there were certain problems in the preparation and pre-competition training. These problems have nothing to do with the coach. I would define them as more global problems.

It happens differently in cyclic sports. The same track athletes qualify for the Olympics according to the results in the nationals in June when they are in their best shape and go to compete in the Olympics in this shape. In swimming, the qualification is in April, and it is clear that there is a fall after that. Can an athlete just physiologically reach the second top performance three months later?

This problem is as old as the world. As long as I remember myself, our qualifications for the largest tournaments in the 50-metre swimming pool were three months to their start. It is hard for me to say why this term was chosen. But experience proves that three months after the qualification a person is completely different. Moreover, nobody knows what the preparation was like. For this reason, there is a term of qualification game but it is hard for me to say why nothing is done with it.

Photo: minsport.tatarstan.ru
I made a serious mistake in the 400 m, which didn’t allow fighting for a spot on the team early, some 150 metres to the start. It was easier in the 200 m

If we remember the Russian nationals, you qualified for the only race, in the 4x200 m relay. Then commentator Denis Pankratov reflected aloud if you should be taken to the Olympics to swim just one distance. It was alarming for Tatarstan fans: what if the coaching staff will ask this question?

I deeply respect Pankratov as an Olympic champion, but now he is a commentator, not a member of the coaching staff. In this respect, commentators cannot know every athlete’s background, consequently, it turns out to be an out a layman’s opinion one should not consider. As for the championship of the country itself, I made a serious mistake in the 400 m, which didn’t allow fighting for a spot on the team early, some 150 metres to the start. It was easier in the 200 m, I finished fourth there losing about 0,05 seconds to Alexander Schegolev, what’s the problem?

“In Rio, I was young and green, excited”

The problem is that Pankratov’s thoughts cast fear, concern and nervousness, though in an interview with me Denis Pimankov, for instance, firmly said that “Krasnykh should undoubtedly be taken to the Olympics.”

Yes, and this decision was made by the coaching staff during the championship of the country. If there was some doubt, it was about the candidacy of Veronika Andrusenko. As for me, there was no doubt.

Then there was a victory at the European Championships, the first in many years if we don’t mention the 2017 World Short Course Championships. What impressions did you have?

In general it was an ordinary competition. In fact, there is nothing special to say about it, only in the context of pre-Olympic competitions. People went there to compete once again as we did or those who did not have nationals went there to try to qualify. Same Britain was formally strong but showed nothing special, and stiff competition was expected at the Olympics, it was obvious.

Photo: minsport.tatarstan.ru
Now I travelled with absolutely different emotions realising that it is necessary to compete now because there might be no other Olympics

England was dangerous with Duncan Scott’s phenomenal seconds, James Guy who competed with you at the third stage of the relay at the European Championships. Thomas Dean won the Olympics in the 200 m. By the way, later he wasn’t as good in the relay itself.

Individual competitions at the Olympics burn you out from the inside, I can tell for myself. In Rio, I swam all heats in the 200 m and relay, but it was tough for me in the final of the 4x200 m. By this time, you are both physically and mentally exhausted. This is why I think Dean’s result in the relay was expected.

For you, it was just the second Olympics, but you already were on the national team with one of the veterans, after Yulia Yefimova.

Andrusenko, Vladimir Morozov and Anastasia Fesikova. We were psyched up for a performance. We arrived in Tokyo, spent quite much time at the airport doing a PCR, which is, by the way, done there via saliva, which is very convenient. After getting to the Olympic village, we started to wait for the competition. Yes, we could move only inside the village, but in general everything was free enough. In general I would not see any big difference between the organisation of the two Olympics in Rio and Tokyo. But in Japan, there wasn’t the well-known fast-food restaurant. As for the difference in personal feelings, in Rio, I was young and green, excited, such people often win because they don’t care about the meaning of the Olympics considering them as a usual competition. Also, I had six events: three individual 200 m events, two relays and the 400 m. Now I travelled with absolutely different emotions realising that it is necessary to compete now because there might be no other Olympics. When we competed in the ISL League, after the first pandemic, it was tougher because we lived on an island, in single rooms and we travelled only from the hotel to the swimming pool for some 20 minutes. But in general this didn’t confuse anybody.

Photo: minsport.tatarstan.ru
I paid attention to technical moments more, not the race itself: that at the beginning the American, I think, was the only to swim for 1:44.7. While his compatriot Zack Apple who had 1:47, of course, people don’t swim this way for a medal in the Olympic final

I worried if Mikhail Dovgalyuk had enough power”

Didn’t the expected changes in the schedule affect when preliminary heats were in the evening and the finals were in the morning?

If a person is ready, this doesn’t have any impact on him or her. Personally, I think the finals in the morning made them more spectacular. For instance, the preliminary part of the competition was very interesting for me because everybody did their best and it was very interesting to watch.

A Tunisian swimmer won the 400 m freestyle. Did you know him before the Olympics?

I think nobody knew about swimming in Tunisia except for Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli. For instance, such a sensational Rio champion Joseph Schooling from Singapore trains in America, while Ahmed Hafnaoui perhaps trains in his homeland, which can be judged by his coach who seems to be local.

How do you think the final race was?

I paid attention to technical moments more, not the race itself: that at the beginning the American, I think, was the only one to swim for 1:44.7. While his compatriot Zack Apple had 1:47, of course, people don’t swim this way for a medal in the Olympic final. But Zack was good in both 100 m freestyle and medley relays. I also watched the lads’ finish and Mikhail Dovgalyuk in the last leap when he started very fast and I worried if he had enough power. He did, we were 0,03 faster than the bronze medallist. This is nothing, of course, once we were so close to a world record.

Another Tatarstan athlete Grigory Tarasevich finished fourth with the mixed medley relay team. Sadly, Yevgeny Rylov lost half a second to the Italian and a second to his best he won the Olympics with.

But I don’t think it was Yevgeny’s problem who swam a bit worse than he can. But all the lads did their best, while it was tough for Yevgeny after his individual 200 metres where he became a champion. Then he was fielded for the mixed relay event.

Photo: minsport.tatarstan.ru
Since I was invited to the club, I feel full support absolutely everywhere: from a perspective of medicine, training, moral support

“It is fantastic that Kazan has such a good choice of 50-metre swimming pools”

Why is Mack Horton in the shadow? At the 2019 World Championship, he set the pace with his confrontation with Sun Yang, while he was worse than others in the semi-final of the relay and was not the final.

Yes, for me it was a surprise that Mack didn’t qualify for the final of his key 400 metres where he won gold in Rio with a gorgeous result. As for the relay, Australia already had a strong team.

After mentioning Horton, I would like to enumerate those stars who were in the shadow in Tokyo 2020. It is Simone Manuel, Sjöström, Hosszú, Japanese male swimmers Daiya Seto and Kosuge Hagino. Is it a hint that by hosting the Olympics a year later the world’s swimming sees a new generation?

Perhaps everybody has their own reason. Sara Sjöström had certain health issues. Kosuge Hagino was going to retire: I don’t know why because he is my age, 26 years is a bit early. Daiya Seto said that he had been preparing wrong. And it was tough for him at the home Olympics. Indeed, his last 50 metres in his signature 400 m medley event was a sorry sight. I wouldn’t hurry to talk about the alternation of generations, it is necessary to see the results of the 2022 World Championships in Fukuoka.

You became a team member of Sintez Aquatics Club in the middle of the previous Olympic cycle. What did it give you?

For starters, I want to say about Kazan in general because it is fantastic that there is such a good choice of 50-metre swimming pools. I personally can train at Burevestnik, Aquatics Palace, Orgsintez. However, now it is more convenient for me to swim at Zalesny just because of its location. As for Sintez, since I was invited to the club, I feel full support absolutely everywhere: from a perspective of medicine, training, moral support.

Dzhaudat Abdullin
Tatarstan