Bubka: the Identified Flying Object
Over 18 years, legendary Ukranian athlete Sergey Bubka acquired more than 30 world records to his name. Today, he is about to turn 43 and is still as devoted to sport and Olympism as always.
Unique and precious
Sergey Bubka was 24 years old when he started his Olympic career at the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988. The qualification rounds started on 26 September, but he was not on top form, and did not show his true colours. He still managed to clear 5.50 metres and qualify for the final phase. The final was far from relaxing for the pole-vault double world champion. After two failed attempts, he just managed to clear the bar at 5.90 metres. With a cry of victory, the young pole-vaulter had earned the longed-for gold medal. This was the one-and-only time he would stand on the Olympic podium.
Indeed, Sergey Bubka returned empty-handed from the next three editions of the Olympic Games in which he participated. In 1992 in Barcelona, and in 2000 in Sydney, he was knocked out in the qualification rounds, just a hair’s breadth away from the finals. As for the 1996 in Atlanta, he had to withdraw because of an injury suffered shortly before the start of the competition.
Although Bubka did not shine during the Olympic Games, his sporting record remains exceptional. From the age of 19, the Ukrainian pole-vaulter showed his talent to the world. He won the world athletics championships six consecutive times (1983, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997), a feat which no other athlete has since equalled in any discipline.
Throughout his career, Bubka never stopped breaking records. In 10 years, he established no fewer than 35 world records, constantly improving on his own performances. On 15 January 1984 in Vilnius (Lithuania), he beat his own first indoor record, clearing the bar at 5.81 metres; and on 31 July 1994 in Sestriere (Italy) he cleared 6.14 metres outdoors. He set a total of 18 world indoor and 17 outdoor records, raising the bar by 34cm in 10 years!
Bubka’s exemplary sporting career is equalled by his Olympic and political commitment. Since retiring in 2001, he has been very busy: as a Deputy in the Ukrainian Parliament from 2002 to 2006; Chairman of the IOC Athletes’ Commission since 2002; and President of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee since 2005. He has also played a major role representing the athletes within several IOC commissions: Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008, IOC 2000 Commission; Eligibility Commission, and the IOC 2000 Reform Follow-Up Commission. His latest activity to date is not the least important: member of the Coordination Commission for the forthcoming Olympic Summer Games which will take place in Beijing in 2008.
Throughout his career, Sergey Bubka has always been able to associate the two facets of sport – commitment and practice itself. A combination which enables him to remain directly connected to the Olympic ideal, and which makes him one of the most noteworthy athletes of his generation.