Mumbai Marathon: No pole, no problem for Pole vault legend Sergey Bubka

Updated: Jan 19, 2018, 12:37 IST | Sundari Iyer

Pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, international ambassador for Sunday's marathon, recalls how he once triumphed with borrowed equipment

Legendary pole vaulter Sergey Bubka during an event in the city yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Legendary pole vaulter Sergey Bubka during an event in the city yesterday. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

In his illustrious career spanning two decades in which he represented Soviet Union (1981-91) and Ukraine (1991–2001), pole vault legend Sergey Bubka broke the world record a staggering 35 times and broke his own record on 14 occasions. If this makes you think that there was a ring of invincibility to his career, it's not quite true. For Bubka, 54, the International event ambassador for Sunday's Tata Mumbai Marathon, there were several moments of despair as well.

Poor Olympic record
Despite being a world record holder and dominating his discipline, he had a relatively poor record at the Olympics. In 1984, he couldn't participate as USSR, along with the majority of other Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the Games in Los Angeles. In 1988, he won his only Olympic gold at Seoul where he represented the Soviet Union, clearing 5.90m. His experience at the 1992 Games in Barcelona was a highly forgettable one and at Atlanta in 1996, he was forced to withdraw due to a heel injury. Four years later, in the 2000 Games at Sydney, he couldn't make the final.

Yesterday, he recalled Seoul with glee. "It was such a difficult competition, one which was full of emotions. I was very exhausted after my victory. I had no energy left in me and I would have fallen on the ground had somebody touched me. Yes, people congratulated me and the feeling that I'm an Olympic champion was evident. But otherwise, I don't remember doing much. I was not into celebrating with champagne anyway," Bubka said.

Difficult times
Only losing did not evoke unhappy feelings. An incident at Rio de Janeiro in 1996 is etched in Bubka's mind. He recalled: "The organisers rushed us for a press conference even while we waited to get our poles cleared by the customs officials. "A day later, the poles arrived at the hotel and I discovered they were broken. My first reaction was, 'Did somebody break the poles to ensure I don't win?' It was difficult to replace the poles at the last minute and I ended up using a smaller pole which I borrowed from a Norwegian guy.

"Later, I realised that the customs officials tried to check if there were drugs or smuggled items inside the pole which they didn't find. I won that event too."

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