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Sergey Bubka, the greatest pole vaulter in history, who won a record six successive world titles, was one of the most illustrious sporting figures of all time.
Sergey Bubka, the greatest pole vaulter in history, who won a record six successive world titles, was one of the most illustrious sporting figures of all time. He dominated his chosen discipline for almost two decades. Although he surprisingly won just one Olympic gold medal in four attempts at Seoul in 1988, he will always be remembered for his six consecutive World Championship gold medals and the astonishing 35 times he broke his own World record.
Bubka possessed enormous strength, speed and gymnastic ability and the fact that he gripped the pole higher than most vaulters gave him extra leverage. He retired in February 2001 and would have added to his superlative achievements had he not suffered from a series of leg and tendon injuries towards the end of his career.
He first announced himself on the global stage as a 19-year-old at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki where torrential rain postponed the pole vault qualifying and also affected the 27-man final. But the young Bubka remained focused and rose above this, impressively soaring 5.70 metres to claim the title. One year later, he set his first World record, indoors in Vilnius, thus ushering in his remarkable sequence of records.
The Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics ruled Bubka out of a virtually certain gold medal and, four years later in Seoul, he needed just one valid jump, a competition record of 5.90 metres, to secure his first and only Olympic gold. Yet outside the Olympic arena, the gifted Ukrainian reigned supreme.
He was the first man to break the six-metre barrier - in Paris in 1985 - and in March 1991 he became the first vaulter to clear 20 feet when he set his 13th world indoor record with a clearance at 6.10 metres. His defence of his title at the 1997 World Championships in Athens, where he had been written off in the build-up to the event, provided one of the great moments in athletics history.
In 1999 he was elected to the International Olympic Committee and one year later he became a member of the IOC Executive Board. Now he is President of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and is a member of the IAAF Council, the Ukrainian Olympic Committee and the Ukrainian Athletics Federation Executive Board.