Arguably the most famous pole vaulter of all time, Sergey Bubka broke the world record for the sport an astounding 35 times and his world record vault of 6.14 metres still stands after 19 years. He won gold in Seoul in 1988 and six consecutive World Championships between 1983 and 1997. VoR’s Tim Walklate speaks to Bubka, who is going to stand in elections for President of the International Olympic Committee in September. He told VoR why he is the right man to lead the IOC forward.
You’re listening to the Voice of Russia from London. I’m Tim Walklate with a special edition of Sports talk.
My guest is the former Soviet and Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka.
The most famous pole vaulter of all time, he broke the world record for astounding 35 times and his world record vault of 6.14 meters still stands for 19 years. He is now a successful businessman and serves as President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. He is going to stand in the elections for President of the International Olympic Committee which happens in September.
Why would you put yourself up for the job?
Sport is my life and I always enjoyed it when I was an athlete and after I became engaged in the sport administration in different positions. In this case, I have different experience and knowledge which gives me a feeling that it would be great and important to serve Olympic movement. This is a great chance.
What can you specifically bring to the IOC?
It’s important for the future of Olympic movement to engage the youth in order not to lose a generation. It’s a great opportunity to take a strong lead and to continue to build the successful future, to develop and study very carefully the Olympic programme, to fight against doping and irregular betting and match-fixing. And, of course, we need to develop strength of the National Olympic Committee to make them more successful. We need to connect people all over the world and bring the youth to work with us to understand their vision, thoughts and needs.
Is that your biggest concern that not enough young people take up sports?
It’s one of the main concerns. Today we see a lot of problems with health conditions - a lot of obesity and diabetes. We need to change that and make youngsters more physically active because sport and physical education are not priority any more.
Can you take a lot of positives from London 2012 as some people praise London 2012 for getting children involved into sport? Do you think you’re carrying that message forward?
I think it was a great success for London 2012. They made a fantastic job. This is also a part of a great and unique legacy for me. Venues and facilities are excellent and they will continue serve the people in London.
As you said in your manifesto you want to tackle doping. That’s one of the biggest issues. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell were found guilty of doping just a few years ago. How much of a blow was that to athletics?
When such cases happen, it’s always unpleasant. I’m not happy about that, but it may be positive in the sense that we are getting stronger and more successful in the battle against doping. We show through that it’s not possible to take this way as it will be punished and sooner or later you will pay the price. This way we will clear sports and protect honest and fair athletes.
It’s almost 25 years since the day that Ben Johnson had his gold medal rescinded. It kind of indicates that we are not much further since that day. You challenge that, would you?
Of course, I remember that scandal. But if we look at today’s results we will see that the system works, so we are on a right way. It’s not an easy battle, but we won’t stop.
If you’re president of the IOC your French needs to be quite good. How is your French?
My French is fine. Of course, I speak more in English. I live in Monaco for the last 20 years, this is my second base, but I don’t see there is a language problem.
Looking at Euro 2012 last year co-hosted in Ukraine, Sochi 2014 next year, the World Cup in 2018, do you envisage either Ukraine or Russia hosting Summer Olympic Games?
Both countries are very sportive. People there enjoy sports. And all these events have an incredible influence on youngster and people encouraging them to do sport. Big events always help to promote sport and healthy lifestyle.
Are you surprised that your record in pole vault hasn’t been broken?
My dream, my goal was a high of 6.20 as I considered it more stable, but is hasn’t been broken, so I wish to the younger generation to jump higher.
What do you make of the current crop of pole vaulters? How does it compare today to when you were an athlete?
The current pole vaulters are good. We have Renaud Lavillenie who is dominating in the men pole vault. He tried to break my record in London just a few days ago. We have also fantastic results in the women pole vault.
You’re, undoubtedly, the most famous pole vaulter of all time. How did you get your success? Was it training or just talent?
First of all, you need to love what you’re doing. That was always an important part of my life, my nature and my culture. But if you look behind, it’s very serious and hard work and professionalism. You need to have some talent, some skills, but without dedication and professional behavior you would not achieve such results. I consider I’m a very lucky man as I discovered sports. It gave me a lot and I’m happy to give something back to sports.
Do you still train these days?
I always carry sports uniform with me so when I have time a can do jogging, biking, swimming or go to gym. This helps me to recover and give me energy to do my job well.
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