Bubka's victories Six times on
top of the world
by Andrij Kudla Wynnyckyj
JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Until this weekend's world athletics championships,
Ukraine's Sergey Bubka, a 33-year-old native of Luhansk and holder of 35
outdoor and indoor world records, had been the only athlete to win five
consecutive world titles. He still is. But now he is also the only competitor
to have won six titles in a row.
The following is a chronology of Mr. Bubka's victories at the world athletics
- 1983, Helsinki, Finland - The first IAAF world championships marked
the beginning of a glorious reign. On August 14, 1983, after a day of heavy
rain and whipping winds wiped out the qualifying competition, the 19-year
old from Donbas took his place among 27 men who were now slated to take
part in a gruelling seven-hour final. Then an unknown member of the Soviet
Union's sports juggernaut, he was the only one to clear 5.70 meters. The
USSR's Konstantin Volkov took the silver (5.60) and Atanas Tarev of Bulgaria
the bronze (5.60).
- 1987, Rome - Mr. Bubka had improved the world record seven times, from
5.85 to 6.03 meters since the previous world championships. Very few doubted
he would retain his title. He did, almost effortlessly, in Rome's Olympic
Stadium on September 5, 1987. The Ukrainian jumped only twice - first clearing
5.70, his winning height in 1983, then 5.85, good enough for the title.
France's Thierry Vigneron was first to height at 5.80 and so was given
the silver, and by equalling this mark Soviet jumper Rodion Gataullin took
home the bronze.
- 1991, Tokyo - Wearing the mantle of Olympic champion, won in Seoul
in 1988, Mr. Bubka returned to Asia to claim a third world title as the
USSR teetered on the brink. He had already announced his intention to compete
for Ukraine in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. On August 29, 1991, five
days after his country declared its independence, he triumphed after a
thrilling battle with Istvan Bagyula of Hungary. This was Mr. Bubka's toughest
competition to date and for several heart-stopping moments it appeared
he might finish as low as seventh. His winning height: 5.95 meters. Mr.
Bagyula took the silver, at 5.90, while Russian Maksim Tarasov made his
first appearance on the podium by clearing 5.85.
- 1993, Stuttgart, Germany - After a frustrating Barcelona Olympics (because
of Russia's clout within the International Olympic Committee, Ukraine competed
as part of the "Unified Team" and Mr. Bubka had shocked the world
with a no-height performance), and at the peak of his career at age 29,
the vaulter was eager to bring a gold medal home to Ukraine. On August
19, 1993, he set two significant marks: he became the only athlete to have
won his event in all four world championships, and his vault of 6.00 meters
was the first successful attempt at that height in a major championship.
The medals went to four men who were now wearing vests of newly independent
nations. Grigory Yegorov of Kazakstan took the silver for a height of 5.90,
while two Russians Mr. Tarasov and Igor Trandenkov were awarded bronze
medals for clearing 5.80.
- 1995, Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden - Now competing only against
himself, on August 9, 1995, Mr. Bubka took the fifth title with a height
of 5.92, but expressed annoyance that failed to raise his world record
from 6.14 (set in Sestriere, Italy, the previous year) to 6.15 in three
attempts. Mr. Tarasov was the silver medalist (5.86) and Frenchman Jean
Galfione, the eventual Olympic champion in Atlanta, took the bronze (5.86).
- 1997, Athens - An Achilles, tendon injury had forced him to pull out
of the Olympics the previous year, and a December operation led him to
muse publicly about possible retirement in the ensuing months. Not able
even to train until April, and managing only a 5.60 in his first competitive
meet on June 18, doubters of the Donetsk-based vaulter's ability to extend
his string were legion. On August 10, he was wincing as he rose from the
mat after each of his clearances. The reigning world champion passed on
5.91 that rivals Mr. Tarasov and Dean Starkey of the U.S. achieved, then
raised himself aloft and over the bar set at 6.01, a height that only three
men in history have cleared, and retained hold on the throne. "It's
not my best victory at the championships," Mr. Bubka said, "but
I can say it is maybe the most difficult." Mr. Tarasov, who later
made a 5.96 vault for the silver medal, disagreed: "That 6.01 was
one of his best jumps I have ever seen. It's amazing to see him win."
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August
17, 1997, No. 33, Vol. LXV
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