Former Russian swimmer and coach Nikolai Pankin died at the age of 70 this past week.
The All-Russian Swimming Federation sent out a press release announcing his death and expressing their condolences.
“From the All-Russian Swimming Federation and from myself I express sincere condolences to colleagues, relatives, and friends of Nikolai Ivanovich Pankin,” said President of the federation Vladimir Salnikov. “A bright representative of the national swimming school, a wonderful person, a great athlete and a coach who was infinitely devoted to his beloved life, passed away. The memory of him will forever remain in our hearts.”
Pankin had an illustrious career as a breaststroker, earning medals at international competitions such as the Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships, and World University Games.
His first international medal came at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Despite going into the meet as the world record holder in the 100m breaststroke after swimming a 1:06.2 in April, he finished with a bronze medal after suffering an injury on the eve of the Games.
The medal only sparked his international career. In 1969 he broke the 200m breaststroke world record twice. First in March with a 226.5 and then once in April with a time of 2:25.4. That April he also broke his own 100m breaststroke world record with a time of 1:05.8, making him the first man under 1:06.
In 1970 he won the 100m breaststroke and took silver in the 200 at the World University Games. He also went on to win a gold in the 100 breaststroke, silver in the 200, and bronze on the 4×100 medley relay team at the European Championships.
Despite competing at the 1972 Olympic Games, Pankin was not able to repeat his efforts from Mexico City. In 1973 he was back to winning medals, claiming golds in both the 100 and 200m breaststrokes a the World University Games.
In 1974 Pankin repeated his medal count from the 1970 European Championships by winning the same gold-silver-bronze trio at the 1974 edition of the Games in Vienna.
The last medal of his career came at the second edition of the World Championships ion 1975. There he finished third in the 200m breaststroke. He went on to swim at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, but didn’t make it onto the podium.
Most recently Pankin has been coaching swimming in his village of Blagoveshchensk.
“Eternal memory to you, dear friend and teacher! Thank you for the good and the feat of serving the people and the motherland,” Olympic medalist and former world record holder Dmitry Volkov wrote on his Facebook page. “The light that you generously gave will continue to illuminate our path, and the warmth of your beautiful soul warms our hearts while they are still beating.”