Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 24, 1988
Date Finished: September 25, 1988
[Vladimir Salnikov] was unbeaten in this race between 1977 and early 1986. He had broken the 15-minute barrier at the 1980 Olympics, and was still the only swimmer under the barrier, having bettered it four times, with three world records. But by 1988 he was far from the swimmer he had once been. He had placed fourth in this event at the 1986 Worlds, won by West Germanyâs [Rainer Henkel], and had not qualified for the final of the 1987 Europeans. The Soviet swim coaches did not choose him for the 1988 Olympic team, but the Soviet Minister of Sport intervened and Salnikov was placed on the team, and he pushed his training in an attempt to regain his old form.
In the final Salnikov swam behind American [Matt Cetlinski] for the first 600 metres, pulling slightly ahead at 700. West German [Stefan Pfeiffer] moved into second at 950 metres, as Salnikov continued to increase his lead, and Cetlinski dropped back to third. Just before 1,400 m the 400 gold medalist, [Uwe DaÃler] of the GDR, caught Cetlinski. Salnikov continued to power ahead until the final 100, when Pfeiffer closed slightly. But it was not enough as Salnikov won his second gold medal in the event, with Pfeiffer second, and DaÃler third. For Cetlinski, it was further disappointment as he placed fourth, as he had in the 400.
That night in the Olympic Village, Salnikov went to the cafeteria for a snack. When he entered all the athletes and coaches, from all nations and all sports, spontaneously stood and cheered the great Russian swimmer.