Sergei Bubka is a former Ukrainian pole vaulter who represented the Soviet Union till the time it collapsed in the year 1991. He is considered as the best pole vaulter in the whole world and one of the best athletes of modern times. He has also won 6 consecutive IAAF World Championships and an Olympic gold medal as well. He also holds the distinction of breaking the world record for men's vaulting 35 times.
Sergei Nazarovych Bubka was born on December 4, 1963 in Luhansk, Ukraine. His father was a soldier while his mother was a medical assistant. Neither of his parents were interested in sports. He also has an elder brother, named, Vasiliy Bubka, who is also a pole vaulter. Since childhood, Bubka had a very high interest level in sports. He had a ferocious and competitive spirit and he played many sports till he was 10 years old. His interest in sports came from playing in the streets around his house, along with his brother and friends. His favorite games were street hockey and football.
Because Sergei had good speed and coordination, he was selected for special coaching in gymnastics. He also tried swimming but found it to be too stale for his liking and decided against it. By the time he was 10 years old, Bubka had taken part in various sports at school and even outside. A friend of his recommended him to train under pole vault coach Vitaliy Petrov because of Bubka's immense love for sports.
It was then that he came under the influence of his coach and started pole vaulting at the tender age of 11. He also entered the Dynamo Children and Youth Sports School in Voroshilovgrad where he received training from Petrov. Later, in the year 1978, when he was 15 years old, Bubka moved to Donetsk, Ukraine along with his coach for better opportunities.
In 1981, Sergei Bubka entered the world of international athletics, when he participated in the European Junior Championships and stood 7th. But it was the 1983 World Championships that was held in Helsinki which proved to be his actual entry into the athletics. He won a gold medal when he cleared 5.70 metres (18 feet 8 inches). The next year, he continued to create records in pole vaulting.
Bubka earned his first world record on 26 May, 1984 when he cleared 5.85 metres, and then went on to clear 5.90 metres a month later. On 13 July, 1985, he created another world record by clearing 6.00 metres (19feet 8 inches), in Paris. He further went on to improve his own record during the next 10 years and did his career best when he cleared 6.14 metres in 1994. To this day, Sergei Bubka remains the only athlete ever to jump over 6.10 metres. He cleared the height of 6.00 metres more than 44 times, which was considered virtually impossible.
Sergei Bubka broke the world record for pole vaulting a total 35 times, in his career. He also broke the outdoor pole vault world record 17 times and the indoor world record 18 times. He worked really hard at his game; this is proved by the fact that inspite of having virtually no competition at all, he improved his own scores time and again.
Although he was the most dominant pole vaulter during his time, he was not so lucky when it came to Olympic Games. The first Olympic that was held after his introduction into the international arena was in 1984. But unfortunately, it was boycotted by the U.S.S.R along with other Eastern countries. Just two months before the Olympic Games were to be held, he had vaulted 12cm higher than the Olympic gold medal winner Pierre Quinnon.
Bubka's only Olympic gold medal came during the Seoul Olympics in the year 1988. However, during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, he was disqualified as he could not clear the vault in his first three attempts. During the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, he had to withdraw from the competition without even making a single jump, as a result of a heel injury. Then, in the year 2000, during the Sydney Olympics, he was eliminated from the finals of the competition after he failed to go past the 5.70m mark in his three attempts.
The reason of his success was his strength, speed and amazing abilities. His average speed during his pole vaulting approach was 35.7 km/hr. which is almost equal the speed of a 100m runner. He also used to hold the pole higher than most of the pole vaulters so that he could get extra support. Part of Bubka's success at breaking the world record so many times was his tactics of raising the bar by a little amount each time, setting new world records in one-centimeter increments. He used to receive huge bonuses, endorsements and fees each time he set a world record.
Sergei Bubka lived a high profile life, buying expensive cars and purchasing an apartment worth $2 million in Monte Carlo. He came under the eyes of the Russian mafia, who issued death threats against Bubka. As a result of the threats since the 1990s, he travels with his bodyguards.
- 1983, 1987, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 - World Champion, pole vault
- 1988 - Gold medal, Olympic Games
- 1991 - Prince of Asturias Award in Sports
- 1984 - 1986 - Best sportsman of the Soviet Union
- 1997 - Sportsman of the Year
- 2002 -2006 - Member of the Ukrainian Parliament
- 2003 - UNESCO Champion in Sport