Sergey Bubka is one of the most illustrious sporting figures of our time. The greatest pole-vaulter in history, he is the only athlete to have won six successive world titles. He dominated his chosen discipline for almost two decades, although surprisingly he won just one Olympic gold medal in four attempts, at Seoul in 1988. He was the first man to break the six-metre barrier, in Paris in 1985, and in March 1991 became the first to clear 20 feet (6.10 metres). He has held the world record of 6.14 metres outdoor since 1994 and 6.15 metres indoor since 1993. He broke the world record a total of 35 times in his career.
The Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics cost Bubka 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.
Arguably his greatest gold medal was his last, in the 1997 World Championships in Athens, where, at 36, he had been written off in the build-up to the event, yet his victory provided one of the great moments in athletics history.
At the end of the 1980s, Bubka was anxious to do something for his home city of Donetsk. "I decided to invest in a sports club to help young people. With the system collapsing there was not enough money to bring children to sport. When they finish school, the kids are there on the streets and you have to produce some interest for them. In these cases sport is one of the best things."
The Bubka Sports Club now has 300 youngsters doing athletics training with ten coaches whose salary is covered by Bubka. His most exciting moment was when one of the youngsters from the club, Maksym Mazuryk, won the pole-vault at the World Junior Championships in Jamaica in 2002.
"I was there as an official and I was able to see him win. You can't imagine how exciting it was. You can't get the same emotion as when you are competing, but it's still wonderful and makes all the work at the Sports Club worthwhile."
After his sports career Sergey Bubka became a sport administrator and politician. He decided to give back to sport and is currently the President of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, Senior Vice President of the IAAF, Member of IOC Executive Board and Chairman of the IOC Athlete's Commission. He has also been a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers as the Prime Minister's Advisor for Youth, Culture and Sports.
A founding member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, he also supports the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organisation/Fight against Tuberculosis, UNESCO, Programme for Chernobyl Children Victims and the Regional and Public Coordination Board for the Social Protection of Handicapped and Orphaned Children.