By Dmitry Komarov
Throughout the history of independent Belarus, perhaps only a dozen of similar successes have been seen: Yulia Nesterenko’s Olympic gold and the bright victories of Yekaterina Karsten and Natalia Tsilinskaya. Their spectacular finishes changed the face of sport.
Alexandra Gerasimenya’s flew to the FINA World Championship in Shanghai as a strong sportswoman, yet had no expectations of a medal, despite victories at European championships. The Chinese event was on a different level and she had been the last to qualify for the final in the 100m freestyle. She was given the eighth lane, as if set apart from the main action. Moreover, the 50m backstroke is her traditional favourite.
“When I touched the board, it took me some time to realise what was happening,” Alexandra recalls. “Either from tiredness or surprise, I looked at the panel and thought I was the eighth to finish. When I understood, I can’t say I experienced a burst of joy, as my fatigue was so great. My emotions are difficult to describe, as I still haven’t really accepted my gold medal. Perhaps, after passions cool, I’ll sit with my family and discuss the reality.”
Amazingly, Dane Jeanette Ottesen also claimed gold for her equal 53.45 second finish — even the computer couldn’t decide between the two swimmers.
“It’s been a long path to this victory,” Gerasimenya notes. “I’ve been performing at international level since I was a junior, with many ups and downs. Some may have already written me off. Even I did not imagine I could swim that fast!”
According to Gerasimenya’s coach — Yelena Klimova — she could yet improve on her 53.45 second time. Even at the World University Games in China, she is expecting more from her. However, Alexandra is now viewed as a contender for an Olympic medal, with less than a year until the Games in London. It may seem short, but this is enough time to train, ready to surprise the world again.