Surprise winners in the pool: Dmitriy Balandin

Reality yet to sink in for history maker

Dmitriy Balandin claims Kazakhstan's first swimming gold in the Games by winning the 200m breaststroke in 2min 7.46sec.
Dmitriy Balandin claims Kazakhstan's first swimming gold in the Games by winning the 200m breaststroke in 2min 7.46sec.

RIO DE JANEIRO • Beefy Kazakh swimmer Dmitriy Balandin made a splash in the Olympic pool on Wednesday by winning his country's first gold in the sport.

The 21-year-old roared home from Lane 8 to win the men's 200m breaststroke title in 2min 7.46sec, surprising even himself.

"It hasn't sunk in yet that I'm an Olympic champion," he said. "I might need a week or 10 days to produce an adequate reaction.

"But for now this medal means everything. To make history for Kazakhstan is the best thing I can do for my country. It's just unbelievable."

Balandin produced a superb fightback after Japan's fast-starting Yasuhiro Koseki had threatened to break the world record.

"You don't win a race in the first 50 metres. You win it in the last 50 metres," said Balandin, who burst onto the scene by capturing a breaststroke treble at the 2014 Asian Games.

Koseki finished fifth in 2:07.80.

American Josh Prenot (2:07.53) took the silver and Russia's Anton Chupkov (2:07.70) the bronze behind Balandin, who looked a little lost on the podium as his country's national anthem played and his mother, Katyana, sobbed tears of joy in the stands.

Kazakhstan, which lost five Olympic titles from 2008 and 2012 through retrospective doping positives, had earlier won its first gold of the 2016 Games when weightlifter Nijat Rahimov broke the clean-and-jerk world record in the men's 77kg class.

Balandin learnt of Rahimov's gold only after winning his own, saying he had been "a bit cut off from the world" for the previous hour.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Reality yet to sink in for history maker'. Print Edition | Subscribe