Sergey Fesikov (21 January, 1989) is a Russian freestyle and individual medley swimmer and strong contender at the competitive 50m and 100m distances.
Sergey’s first successes on the international stage came in 2006, which was something of a “silver” year as he took five second-place finishes at the European and World Junior Championships. His one gold medal came in the European 4x100m freestyle which he won with the Russian relay team in July in Palma de Mallorca, where he also came second in the 50m freestyle silver. Six weeks later at the Worlds in Rio de Janeiro, the 50m and 100m freestyle, and 4x100m freestyle and medley relay silvers followed. In 2007 he returned to the European Juniors in Antwerp and went one better by winning two gold medals (50m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle) and a silver (100m freestyle). Later in the year he had his first international senior level success at the European SC Championships in Debrecen where he took the 100m IM bronze medal and was part of the Russian 4x50m medley relay team’s silver medal effort.
In 2008 Fesikov made his debut at two of swimming’s biggest events. At the European Championships in Eindhoven, he progressed to the final of the 50m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay, swam in the heat of the gold-medal Russian 4x100m medley relay effort, and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 100m freestyle final. Later in the year at the Olympics in Beijing, he swam the anchor leg in Russia’s 4x100m freestyle relay team that failed by less than half a second to make the final. At December’s European SC Championships in Rijeka, Sergei made the final of the 50m freestyle, 100m IM, and 4x50m freestyle relay, but most remarkably, he and his Russian teammates broke the 4x50m medley relay world record in their heat (1:33.77), only to have it broken later in the day.
Further podium finishes came in 2009 as Sergey won the 100m freestyle and came second in 50m freestyle at the Universiade in Belgrade, before taking gold-silver-bronze (4x50m medley relay, 100m IM, 50m freestyle) at the European SC Championships in Istanbul at the end of the year. In their heat, the Russian medley relay team, swimming without Sergey, had shattered the world record by almost a second with a time of 1:32.08. With Fesikov swimming a blistering 20.49 anchor leg in the final, the Russian team eclipsed their earlier time to set a new world mark of 1:31.80, which still stands today.
Before arriving in Istanbul, Sergei had had a busy month, as he went from Durban to Moscow, Stockholm, and Berlin following the FINA/Arena World Cup series. Having won the 100m IM in Durban and Moscow, and taking silver in Stockholm, Fesikov set the world on notice with a new world record of 50.95s in his Berlin heat, and followed up by almost matching it in the final.
The following year, Sergei had a disappointing European Championships in Budapest compared with his 2008 debut, going as far as the 50m freestyle semi-final, and swimming in the heat of the gold-medal Russian 4x100m freestyle relay effort. However, he ended the year successfully at his first World SC Championships in Dubai by coming home with silver and bronze medals (4x100m freestyle relay, 100m IM), making the 50m freestyle final, and swimming in the 4x100m medley heat for the Russian relay team which went on to win the silver medal.
Fesikov’s first World Championships in Shanghai (2011) produced promising results but no medals, with a 50m freestyle semi-final appearance (missing the final cut by 0.02s) and swimming the anchor leg in Russia’s fifth-placed 4x100m freestyle final. But at the end of the year he was back on the podium at the European SC Championships in Szczecin, winning the 100m freestyle, taking the 50m free silver, and picking up two more second-place finishes in the 4x50m freestyle and medley relays.
Sergei’s second Olympics in 2012 produced the medal that eluded him in 2008, as he swam in the heat of the 4x100m freestyle relay for the Russian team that went on to take third place. He also swam in the 50m freestyle event, but did not progress beyond the heats.
When Sergey Fesikov was born in 1989, his homeland was in a dramatic state of change, and indeed his home town wasn’t even called Saint Petersburg as it used to be and is again today, it was still Leningrad for another two years. Whether or not he was aware of and affected by the changes going on around him at such a young age is debatable, but there was another phenomenon emerging in Russia at the same time that many a youngster was aware of and affected by, and it went by the name of Alexander Popov.
It’s therefore probably less debatable whether Sergey was “impressed” into becoming a freestyle sprinter when he started swimming at the age of six, but his entrée into the sport was anything but orthodox. He relates that his “future first coach” stopped him and his mother on the street to encourage him to come swimming, because “he will be a champion.” His trusting – and clearly wise – mother duly showed up at the pool the following day, and another Russian swimming career was launched.
That Sergey had a natural talent for swimming in his genes wasn’t clear at that stage, but a love of sport certainly was, given that his parents were both volleyball players and students of sport. Beyond the pool, Sergey still enjoys watching volleyball, football, and basketball, and whenever time or vacations allow, playing them too.
Leisure time and vacations are spent with friends, family and girlfriend – world backstroke champion Anastasia Zueva – as well as taking road trips: “Sometimes we’ll just get in the car and take off to discover a ‘new’ city in Russia.”
Time in Russia and his current home in Obninsk outside Moscow has diminished over the past few years since he joined coach Andrea di Nino and his ADN Swim Project in Italy. There he trains with fellow Russians Yevgeny Korotyshkin (also an Elite Team member) and Vitaly Melnikov, and while he misses his girlfriend and his homeland, he confesses that “this club has changed my life in the best way.” Sergey went to the 2012 Olympics with Di Nino, who was one of the official coaches of the Russian swim team.
Beyond swimming and sport, he enjoys reading books with an historical theme, watches different genres of film depending on his mood, listens to electro and club music, and has a particular liking for Nickelback.
Of the influences in his life, he naturally cites Popov, but he’s equally adamant that he doesn’t want to be like anyone else, since each person is an individual. “Popov can only be Popov, Bernard is Bernard, Cielo is Cielo. Nobody can be like Popov, in life or in competition, everyone’s different.” All of which leads to his ultimate point that Fesikov will only ever be Fesikov. Wise words indeed, those of a man who knows himself. Naturally, as he suggests, if he knows himself as a champion swimmer, all the better.