Sergey 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 broke the world record 35 times in his career, finally holding the 6.15 indoor mark from 1993 and the 6.14 metres outdoor record from 1994, until Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 in February 2014.
Despite his dominance, he surprisingly won just one Olympic gold medal in four attempts. The Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics cost him a virtually certain gold medal but, 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.
He says: “I cannot complain, I had a wonderful career, but there should have been more Olmypic gold medals than one. I was particularly disappointed in 1984 when the political decisions of the communist leaders stopped us going to Los Angeles. They didn’t ask us, we just had to carry out their decision. We did not have any rights. There was nothing I could do, but in 1992 in Barcelona I was quite disappointed as I had won every competition that year. But in the end I am happy with the gold medal I won in Seoul. It was a special moment.”
At the end of the 1980s, Bubka was anxious to do something for his home city of Donetsk. He created the Bubka Sports Club which had facilities for 300 youngsters training with ten coaches whose salary he covered.
After his sports career Sergey became a sport administrator and politician. He decided to give back to sport and is currently a Vice President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Executive Board Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
He became a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy in 2001 and in 2008 he was presented with the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the work he has done both in Ukraine and beyond, having also worked as a World Health Organisation Ambassador to promote the fight against tuberculosis and support child victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
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.