Sergey Bubka dominated pole vault for over a decade; in the European Championships (Outdoor and Indoor), the World Championships and World Indoor, won the Olympic Gold Medal in Seoul in 1988, and broke the world record 35 times. He represented the Soviet Union, until its dissolution in 1991, and Ukraine. Now 54, he is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Senior Vice-President of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and President of National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
As an administrator for 16 years now, Bubka is happy that the delegations of North and South Korea will march behind one flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. “This is a very good decision that the two Koreas will march together. This is the power of sports and Olympics. A lot of backroom work was done at different layers and the IOC President Thomas Bach and his team has worked very hard. We pray this will happen. This will be fantastic to unite the Koreas and the Korean people,’’ said Bubka in the course of an interview to The Hindu.
Bubka is in Mumbai as International Event Ambassador of the Tata Mumbai Marathon.
Athletics has been blessed with remarkable sportspersons. The most recent was sprinter Usain Bolt who took the centre stage at three Olympics (2008, Beijing; 2012, London and 2016, Rio de Janeiro) and four World Championships (Berlin, 2009; Daegu 2011; Moscow, 2013;Beijing, 2015). How will life be without this magnificent Jamaican? He drove athletics for close to a decade?
If you look at athletics history, we always had some incredible and outstanding athletes who performed well in different periods. The world saw the likes of Jesse Owens, Valeriy Brumel, Carl Lewis, Mike Powell and many more. This has been great for athletics and such athletes are not born every time. And I believe another new talent will show up itself.
Usain Bolt’s personality is unique. I remember when I went to Jamaica in 2002 for the Junior World Championships, he was 15 years old. I saw him and Carolina Kluft. I could see something special in him. When he reached his peak in 2008, he stayed motivated as a professional, continued his career and won in Korea (Daegu). It’s not easy to stay at the top and develop...it’s challenging. He was a great talent and fantastic for our sport.
Edwin Moses ran 122 races (400m hurdles) and won 107; you broke the world record 35 times and became the first to clear 6 metres. And Bolt made 100m, 200m and 4 x100m relay his own?
This is show of character, love and passion for the sport you practice. You always want to better performances every day. These are people with incredible talents. They work very hard to develop their skills.
On one side Bolt was displaying his great talent and on the other side the World saw the ugly spectre of athletes taking performance enhancing drugs, and the Russian Federation charged of State sponsored doping of athletes and many of its athletes stripped of medals.
One has to look at all sports. Doping is a problem for most sports and for the society. This is not confined to athletics. The IOC, IAAF are looking out to improve the system, change rules and impart knowledge on ways to protect clean athletes. There will be tough and harsh decisions taken and we will not accept the cheaters.
About 14,000 athletes have be dope-tested before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (Feb. 9-25, 2018); so much money has already been spent to tackle the doping menace?
Yes, that’s another step to protect clean athletes. It costs a lot of money. It would be nice if these issues disappear so that we can invest in the sport, facilities and to develop a generation coaches and athletes. This is such a reality, someone is honest and someone is not fair.
You won the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. However 1992 (Barcelona) and 2000 (Sydney) were disappointing. Do you regret winning just one gold at the Olympics?
I am happy that I have an Olympic Gold medal... very happy about it.
Were you surprised that Thiago won the gold at Rio, getting the better of Lavillenie?
I was not surprised because he was working with my coach Vitaly. I could see through the competition that he could spring a surprise. Vitaly Petrov is an outstanding coach.
The 14- one-day circuit IAAF Diamond League, run in a championship format from 2017, is set for a change in 2020. How are the changes going to benefit athletics and athletes?
Times are changing and one must be ready and positive towards reforms and changes in ideas. For that, we need to listen to the requests of the society, the athletics community and the spectators. We must have vision. All these aspects are important. And for development, it’s important to take into consideration the coaches’ point of view and the experience of the athletes. We must work as a team and aim to make some good changes for our sport.