Denis Pankratov (RUS)
Honor Swimmer (2004)
FOR THE RECORD: 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: 6th (200m butterfly); 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m, 200m butterfly), silver (4x100m medley relay); 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: 7th (200m butterfly); SEVEN WORLD RECORDS: 2-100m butterfly, 1-200m butterfly, 1-50m butterfly (S.C.), 2-100m butterfly (S.C.), 1-200m butterfly (S.C.); 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: gold (200m butterfly), silver (4x100m medley), bronze (100m butterfly); 1993 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m butterfly, 4x100m medley), silver (100m butterfly); 1995 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 4x100m medley).
On July 4, 1974, in Volgograd, Russia, Denis Pankratov was born. He was to become the greatest butterfly swimmer to swim for his country. He and Volgograd teammate, Evgenyi Sadovyi, both became Olympic champions – Sadovyi in the 200m and 400m freestyle and Pankratov in the 100m and 200m butterfly.
By age 16, in 1990 and again in 1991, Denis won the Junior European Championships in the butterfly. With little international experience, the next year he placed 6th in the final of the 200m butterfly at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Games. In 1993, at the Sheffield European Championships, Pankratov became more noticed, winning gold medals in the 200m butterfly and 4x100m medley and a silver medal in the 100m butterfly. In European Championship competition, he repeated this performance in the 1995 Vienna Championships, this time winning all three gold medals and breaking Pablo Morales’ nine-year-old 100m butterfly world record with a 52.32. He held the 100m butterfly world record for over two years.
At the 1994 World Championships in Rome, Pankratov swam head-to-head with all the best swimmers of the world. He won the 200m butterfly, placed second in the 4x100m medley and third in the 100m butterfly. This competition established Pankratov’s world dominance in the butterfly and two years later in Atlanta, at the 1996 Olympic Games, he won two gold medals, one each in the 100m and 200m butterfly and a silver medal in the 4x100m medley with his Russian teammates. His 100m butterfly victory was another world record of 52.27, breaking his own record set the previous year.
Pankratov tried for the 2000 Sydney Games and finished 7th in the 200m butterfly. All totaled, he set seven world records – three long course and four short course. His two long course 100m butterfly world records stood for two years until broken in 1997 by Michael Klim (AUS), and his 200m butterfly world record of 1:55.22 lasted five years before broken by Tom Malchow (USA). His short course world records included two in the 100m butterfly and one each in the 50m and 200m butterfly. They were set in 1997, his in-between years of the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games.
Denis Pankratov is the only Russian swimmer to win a medal in the 100m butterfly in Olympic competition.