|WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
November 15, 2010
In one of the most exciting men’s races at the 16th Asian Games, Vlad Polyakov turned in his finest performance of his swimming career in a textile suit Monday night at the Aoti Aquatics Centre in Guangzhou, China.
The two-time Olympian from Kazakhstan came from behind to finish second in the 100-meter breaststroke to capture a silver medal in one of his biggest international meets.
Polyakov finished in 1:01.03, his fastest time in the post-tech suit era. He was fourth after the first 50 meters and moved up to second behind Japan’s Ryo Tateishi (1:00.38). China’s Wang Shuai took the bronze in 1:01.71.
Polyakov finished ahead of defending champion and Olympic gold medalist Kosuke Kitajama for the first time in a major meet. Kitajima, the meet record holder, was fourth in 1:01.85.
Polyakov’s second-half split times in prelims (32.5), which earned him the top seed, and finals (32.1) were his fastest split times ever.
Polyakov, who turns 27 on November 30, has returned to the championship form he was in before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and has re-established himself on the world scene.
SOFLO six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg was extremely pleased with Polyakov’s swim and talked with him an hour after the race.
“He is extremely happy,” Lohberg said. “Vlad is definitely back. To win a medal on this stage, the international swim scene, is pretty great.
“The meets are getting so freaking fast,” Lohberg said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, everything is fast, people are going crazy. There are so many swimmers now on a high level, it doesn’t matter what meet it is. Vlad is definitely back on track.”
In his opening event, the 50-meter breaststroke on Saturday, Polyakov was fourth fastest qualifier in 28.23 and finished in a three-way tie for fourth in 28.15, just missing a medal. He said he muscled through it but it served as a good tune-up for the 100. He has the 200-meter breaststroke remaining on Thursday.
“I think the 200 is another good medal chance,” Lohberg said. “This meet was our goal and we put a lot of work. He put a lot of effort into planning for this meet. It’s been a mixture of physical and mental. His stroke efficiency is maybe the best I have seen it. That combined with really solid speed puts him in a very good position.”
Polyakov, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas and University of Alabama, is one of 10 swimmers from Kazakhstan and only medalist from his country. He is also the only non-Oriental to medal.
The Asian Games have become a heated dual meet between China and Japan. On Day three of racing, China won five more gold medals (three women, two men) out of a possible seven. The only surprise was Japan getting knocked off China’s men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay in 7:07.68, third best in the world, to Japan’s 7:10.39.
SOFLO’s Vlad Polyakov Wins Silver Medal