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31 January 2005

Alexander Popov retires from professional swimming

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Russian swimming legend Alexander Popov today confirmed that he is to retire from the international swimming circuit. During a gala dinner following sponsor Omega's annual celebrity bobsleigh competition in the prestigious mountain resort of St. Moritz, fellow Omega ambassador Ian Thorpe presented him with a specially engraved Omega watch to thank him for being an inspiration.

Speculation had been rife for weeks that Alexander Popov had retired or was to retire from his professional swimming career. However, the two-times double Olympic champion chose this year's Omega celebrity bobsleigh tournament to make the official announcement. The day's action on the Olympia Bobrun St. Moritz - Celerina, which saw Popov "competing" in the tournament alongside fellow ambassador Ian Thorpe and many other friends from the world of swimming, provided a fitting background for the announcement.



Popov explained how he had tried to watch last week's competition in Moscow to see how he felt as a spectator. It was then that he made the decision to retire. After looking back over his career as a swimmer, the Russian was visibly moved as he announced his retirement, which was acknowledged by the guests with a standing ovation lasting several minutes. He subsequently confirmed that he would continue to work with Omega, with the end of swimming competition meaning more time for special projects and, last but not least, his family.



In a moving ceremony during the evening's gala dinner to mark the end of one era and the beginning of another, Omega ambassador Ian Thorpe presented Popov with a specially engraved Omega De Ville watch to thank him for the inspiration he had given him over the years. Thorpe told how he had actually received his first Omega watch from Popov in Australia when he was only 14 years old, "He gave me my first Omega watch as a swimmer, now I'm giving him his last Omega watch as a swimmer".

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