Russian world record holder Kliment Kolesnikov spoke openly on the perspective he gives to the Olympics and competition as a whole in a recent interview with TASS, saying that putting too much emphasis on swimming can weigh down other aspects of life.
Kolesnikov, 23, said that while the Olympics remain the highest level an athlete strives for, centering your identity solely around sport can lead to mental health struggles.
“It has not lost its meaning as a whole, the Olympics remains the best thing that can happen in the life of an athlete, but it is no longer the meaning of life – there is no need to connect them,” Kolesnikov said (via translation).
“By doing this, people then begin to suffer from depression. The right approach to this is: ‘It’s just like a competition, after which you forget about it all. Besides the Olympics and swimming, there are other things you can do and enjoy’.”
Kolesnikov made his Olympic debut in Tokyo, winning an individual silver medal in the men’s 100 backstroke (52.00) and an individual bronze in the 100 freestyle (47.44) while representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
He said that after experiencing the Games, they “absolutely” lost a bit of their luster in his mind.
“And not because sanctions were imposed. This happened immediately after the Olympic Games. Then my opinion about everything changed,” he said.
“You prepare for them as a boy who has a dream to get there and win. But in the end, you find yourself in a tough, reality-filled adult life, in which you understand that you are interesting only when you show something. Therefore, I rethought my goals and objectives – I just try to get the thrill of swimming, setting my personal bests and records peace.
“If you look at it from the perspective of an athlete, the Olympics are a cool competition, in terms of organization it’s an unattainable level: it’s cool to be part of the swimming community, to see guys from different countries. But looking at it from the outside after the performance, and understanding what this led to, it becomes awkward.”
Since Russian swimmers were banned from international meets in March 2022, Kolesnikov has still been thriving in domestic competition, including breaking the world record in the men’s 50 back in both short course meters (22.11) and long course meters (23.55) within the last 12 months.
Russian athlete’s status on competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris is still up in the air, though even if they do become eligible to compete, it will be as individual neutral athletes.
Last week, Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Director Vladimir Sengleyev said it was unlikely Russia would be eligible to compete at either the 2024 or 2026 Games.
All-Russian Swimming Federation President Vladimir Salnikov has been vocal about his stance against Russian athletes competing as neutrals.