Helsinki 1983 crowns Sergei Bubka the new king of the pole vault

In the countdown to the IAAF World Championships which open in Moscow on Saturday, a look back to some of the great performances from European athletes in the history of the event, which on Wednesday celebrates its 30th birthday.

It all started on August 7 1983 in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki but it was not until the final day of competition, Sunday August 14th, when track and field was introduced to a man who can rightly be called the greatest at his event.

Not that Sergei Bubka, a 19-year-old Ukrainian, had given too much evidence of the stranglehold that he might have on the sport.
Wearing a red singlet, white shorts and striped socks, Bubka won was a teenager with a rich ambition, and it brought him gold with a vault of 5.70m as he beat his Soviet Union teammate Konstantin Volkov who won silver on countback with 5.60m from Bulgaria’s Atanas Tarev.

Thus began an incredible senior career for an athlete who had been a relative unknown heading into these 1st IAAF World Championships.

Two years earlier, at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Utrecht, he was only seventh but Helsinki changed his life – forever.

As Bubka said in a recent interview with Spikes magazine: “It was an unforgettable experience to win in Helsinki. I was only aged 19 at the time and was not considered a medal contender, which freed me from any pressure. To win was like a dream and it was the first time in my life I’d been asked to sign an autograph.”

There had actually been so much rain during the qualification competition that it was abandoned, which meant the final had 27 athletes. It lasted over seven hours and seven of those did not even register a mark.

But Bubka rose to the top and he did not stop. He went on to win the world title on five more occasions – defending his crown in Rome in 1987 and then again Tokyo in 1991 and, competing under Ukraine in its own right, he triumphed in Stuttgart in 1993, Gothenburg in 1995 and Athens in 1997.

An incredible record for man who also won gold in 1986 at the European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart and then two years later became Olympic champion in Seoul.

But it was his world record ability that became a trademark, forged from what he achieved in Helsinki 30 years ago.

Ten months later he vaulted into the history books with 5.85m and in total broke the world record on 35 occasions – 17 times outdoors, 18 times indoors.

His marks still stand today, with 6.15m indoors from Donetsk in 1993 and 6.14m outdoors from Sestriere in 1994.



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