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The first official Belarusian swimming championship was held in 1927, in Homieĺ. Nine years later, Minsk acquired the first closed swimming pool (25m long, with four lanes) but it was not until the 1970s that Belarus began to see serious success.

In 1972, Natallia Jaršova of Minsk became USSR champion in backstroke, meeting the standards of the international master of sports. She joined the Soviet Olympic team for the 1972 Olympics in Munich and, though she didn’t claim a medal, she was the first Belarusian swimmer to perform at the Olympic Games.

Champions are born

Siarhiej Kapliakoŭ was the first Belarusian Olympic medallist, taking silver in the 4х100m freestyle relay in Montreal, in 1976. Four years later, at the Olympic Games in Moscow, in 1980, he claimed two gold medals: in the 200m freestyle (setting an Olympic record) and in the 4х200m freestyle relay.

In the early 1990s, Belarus acquired a new star in Aliena Rudkoŭskaja. She began training at the age of ten, and was a Soviet Championship junior medallist at fourteen. In 1991, aged eighteen, she took three gold medals at the European Championship. One year later, at the Barcelona Games, in 1992, she took gold in the 100m breaststroke, and bronze in the combined 4х100m relay.

Belarusian swimming has a woman's face

The main advances in swimming for sovereign Belarus have been connected with our women's team. Aliena Popčanka became the first Belarusian ‘goldfish’, sensationally winning gold at the World Championship in 2003. She later married her coach, Frenchman Frédéric Vergnoux, and became a citizen of France.

Recently, Aliaksandra Hierasimienia has been the main star, a public darling, also called the ‘goldfish’. Aliaksandra’s popularity has brought swimming to the fore, among fans and would-be athletes. Regardless of time zones, her fans will wake in the night to watch her swim, on TV, at international competitions.

Aliaksandra won two silver medals at the London Olympics, and is twice world champion: in Shanghai, in 2011 (100m freestyle) and in 2012, in Istanbul (50m freestyle). She was named ‘Athlete of the Year’ in Belarus in 2011.

Paviel Sankovič, who took bronze at the World Short Course Championship in 2011, in the 100m backstroke, is another rising star. He holds the national record for 50m and 100m backstroke, as well as that for the 100m butterfly.

How many pools are there in Belarus?

Belarus now boasts 278 public pools and 722 mini-pools at pre-school institutions. The Belarusian Sports Federation plans pools for all regions, so that every citizen has access to swimming facilities. Our athletes are supported in attending major international competitions, bringing victories at world championships, as well as at European championships, and at the Olympic Games. Naturally, every medal helps promote swimming in Belarus.

We host dozens of swimming competitions annually, for professionals, and for amateurs. The Palace of Aquatic Sports, in Minsk, is the main training centre, located within the Olympiysky Sports and Fitness Complex. The Palace of Aquatic Sports in Brest is also well-known, with four pools.