The star of pole vault, Sergei Bubka, was in Cuba, competed and lost. Yes, this was exactly as it reads, and I admit that I was also amazed when a friend (to whom I am thankful for the greatest part of the statistics in this publication) told me about the totally unheard-of event.
It happened in Santiago de Cuba, in the summer of 1980, when a competition called “Olympic Hopes” has held, with attendance of youngsters below 18 years from the socialist countries.
Obviously, Serguei in those days was not the Bubka of the years that followed. When he competed in the “Moncada city” he was barely 17 years old and was not even mentioned by the press that reported the event, because he jumped five meters and lost to German Detlef Pilz, who jumped 5.10m.
The headlines reporting the games held at the José “Pepe” del Cabo track highlighted particularly the German Heike Daute-Drechsler and Cuban Silvia Costa, winners in long jump (6.70m) and high jump (1.81m), respectively. The German athlete also won the pentathlon. Others who later became top figures like Ana Fidelia Quirot (seventh in 200m), Maritza Martén (fifth in discus)= and Stefka Kostadinova (third with 1.78 in high jump) were not mentioned on that occasion, either.
Three years later, Bubka made sporting history when he became world champion. He did it with 5.70 in the first of these championships held in Helsinki, capital of Finland. This was his first step, and it was a discreet one if you consider the glorious career he achieved. In total he obtained six titles in these world contests, plus one Olympic gold and 35 world records.
The first absolute record obtained by the czar outdoors was 5.85m in Bratislava on May 26, 1984. Early that year, the young Ukrainian had established three other marks indoors (5.81, 5.82 and 5.83). Precisely this scene seemed to be adequate for his best performances: he obtained 6.15 in an indoor track (Donetsk, Ukraine, February 21, 1993), a height still unsurpassed worldwide. Outdoors he is also the title bearer with one cm less, 6.14m (Sestriere, Italy, July 31, 1994). Those were the last marks of his career, which shows 35 world records: 18 indoors and 17 outdoors.
His mastery included 44 jumps above six meters, a credential that earned him acknowledgments of all ranks, among them the Prince of Asturias of Sports, the Laureaus and the title of Best Athlete of the Year by the IAAF. His career showed perfect stability and he was a symbol of hegemony: throughout eleven years he mastered the world and touched the skies whenever he wanted. His name is among the athletes with the greatest merits in track and field worldwide, and his mastery of this difficult specialty is something from another world, only comparable to the feats of Russian Yelena Isinbayeva.
Thus, Bubka, considered with more than enough reasons the best pole vault athlete in history, also had the possibility to compete in this island of the Caribbean, and although he was defeated it is a pity that we human beings do not have the capacity to foresee the future and fabricate fate to our convenience, because had it been so, Vitaly Petrov’s disciple would have monopolized the headlines and the undersigned would have been born earlier to be present at the performance of this exceptional jumper.
All Serguei Bubka’s records:
Outdoor events (17): 1984 (4) – 5.85, 5.88, 5.90 y 5.94; 1985 (1) – 6.00; 1986 (1) – 6.01; 1987 (1) – 6.03; 1988 (2) – 6.05 y 6.06; 1991 (4) – 6.07, 6.08, 6.09 y 6.10; 1992 (3) – 6.11, 6.12 y 6.13; 1994 (1) – 6.14.
Indoor events (18): 1984 (3) – 5.81, 5.82 y 5.83; 1986 (4) – 5.87, 5.92, 5.94 y 5.95; 1987 (2) – 5.96 y 5.97; 1989 (1) – 6.03; 1990 (1) – 6.05; 1991 (4) – 6.08, 6.10, 6.11 y 6.12; 1992 (1) – 6.13; 1993 (2) – 6.14 y 6.15.