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SIDEBAR Balandin delivers first swimming gold for Kazakhstan

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Dmitriy Balandin wrote himself into the Olympic history books on Wednesday as the first swimming medallist from Kazakhstan.

"This is the biggest honour and the biggest thing I could have given to my country," the 21-year-old said after winning the men‘s 200-metre breaststroke in Rio de Janeiro. "I‘m very proud of that."

"It‘s history because it‘s the first medal in swimming for Kazakhstan and I‘m very happy that I‘m the one that got it," he said.

Japan‘s Ippei Watanabe was one of the favourites ahead of the race, having qualified fastest with an Olympic record time, but failed to win a medal in a field that looked wide open - as Balandin proved by winning from lane eight.

"There is a positive and a negative side to swimming in the end lane. When you‘re swimming at the end, on one hand you don‘t see your opponents so it‘s very hard to know how well you‘re swimming," Balandin said.

"On the other hand it‘s a plus because when you don‘t see them you can concentrate on your own race and not get distracted," he added.

Balandin already had three Asian Games breaststroke titles in the 50m, 100m and 200m from 2014 but this represents his step into the big time.

"Not right now," he said when asked if he realized he was a national hero. "I‘m just really tired."

Balandin won in 2:07.46 over American Josh Prenot, while his friend, Anton Chupkov of Russia, claimed bronze.

"We were sitting in the warm-up room and while everybody was focussing on their race, we were just chatting easily and just chatting like friends," Balandin said of his pre-race preparation.

"Anton and I said, ‘We have to endure these two minutes and then everything will be over.‘"

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