Olympic swim champ Balandin may quit after Asian Games

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JAKARTA, Aug 22, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Balandin, who two
years ago won his country’s first-ever Olympic swimming gold medal, said
Wednesday he will consider retiring after the Asian Games.

The 23-year-old became a national hero in the former Soviet state after a
stunning victory in the 200 metres breaststroke in Rio.

But he suffered an almighty Olympic hangover and admits he is struggling to
motivate himself after a miserable run of form and niggling injuries.

“I think maybe I’m going to finish my swimming career,” Balandin told AFP
after placing second in his 100m heat and qualifying second overall for
Wednesday’s final in Jakarta.

“I won everything I wanted in swimming — I just don’t find new motivation
for swimming.

“For my country I’m a hero, so many people know my face and it’s great,”
added the beefy Kazakh, who withdrew from Tuesday’s 200m breaststroke with a
sore ankle.

“But I’ve had some trouble with my health, I fractured the ankle — it’s
been so bad. After the injury, for three or four weeks I didn’t come to the
swimming pool.”

Balandin stormed home from lane eight to win the Olympic 200m title in
Brazil.

His sensational gold medal was a source of huge national pride in
Kazakhstan — once lampooned by the movie “Borat” and its bumbling main
character in his ill-fitting Soviet-era suit and “mankini”.

– Rich sporting history –

Kazakhstan, which has a population of 18 million, has a rich sporting
history, achieving Olympic success in boxing, cycling and weightlifting.

But Balandin hinted that he was unhappy with his country’s swimming
officials.

“I wanted a bit more from the Kazakhstan swimming federation,” he said.

“Maybe how (swimmers) are coached, how managed.”

Asked if the Asian Games would be his last competitive meet, Balandin
shrugged: “Maybe last — I need some time, maybe a holiday to think what I’ll
do in the future.”

Despite his fragile confidence, Balandin out-qualified Japan’s world silver
and bronze medallists Yasuhiro Koseki and Ippei Watanabe, clocking 1:00.07 —
a fraction behind China’s Yan Zibei.

“I think it’s normal for the morning,” he shrugged. “In the evening I’ll
try to go faster.”

Elsewhere, in Wednesday’s Asian Games heats, Olympic champion Joseph
Schooling topped the time-sheets in the men’s 100m butterfly in 52.31.

But the 23-year-old, who stunned Michael Phelps in Rio to scoop Singapore’s
first-ever Olympic gold medal in any sport, was taking nothing for granted.

“What you did two years ago doesn’t have any bearing on what you do now,”
he said.

“It’s anyone’s race tonight, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Olympic champion Kosuke Hagino clocked the second fastest time of the
morning’s 400m individual medley heats in 4:16.17 — one hundredth behind
fellow Japanese Daiya Seto.

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