Olympic champ Balandin considers quitting after Asian Games
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Kazakhstan’s only Olympic swimming champion Dmitriy Balandin is contemplating retiring from the sport, possibly as soon as this week.
The 23-year-old has been struggling with injuries and form since his breakthrough win in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and could quit competitive swimming once he finishes racing at the Asian Games, which are taking place in Indonesia.
“I don’t know what my life is going to be after the Asian Games,” he said. “Maybe I finish swimming after Asian Games, but I don’t know now.
“Really, I am a little bit tired for swimming. I’ve won all I wanted in my swimming career.”
Balandin first made his mark by sweeping the 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke titles at the last Asian Games in South Korea in 2014.
He went on to become the first swimmer from Kazakhstan to win Olympic gold when he powered to victory from the outside lane after scraping into the 200 breaststroke final as the slowest qualifier.
He became an instant celebrity in his homeland, and triggered a surge in children taking up the sport.
“In my country, so many people know my face now,” Balandin said. “So many children come to me and want to take photos with me.
“It’s great because my country’s swimming has taken a new step. So many children (are) swimming now.”
The peak of Rio has been hard to replicate for Balandin, though, and he failed to make the final in all three breaststroke races at last year’s world championships in Russia.
He entered all three individual breaststroke events in Jakarta but pulled out of the 200 heats on Tuesday because of an ankle injury he sustained in training a month ago. He said he planned to race in the shorter events this week before deciding on his future, possibly in a new role as a coach.
“I have some trouble with my health,” he said. “It’s really good to be back at the Asian Games again. I try to repeat my result from Incheon but I (couldn’t) swim the 200. I’ll try to win the 100 and the 50.
“I don’t know how I’ll swim here because my opponents from Japan and China are really great swimmers.”