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Seoul Olympian Returns After 18 Years

Posted April. 05, 2006 02:59,   


“The track, the spectator’s stands, everything is so well preserved. I can still remember the stirring of the crowd when I took my last jump. It was an unforgettable moment. It was my first Olympics. I was nervous and having severe muscle cramps. After failing to clear five meters 90 centimeters twice, it was my last chance. The crowd cheered me on loudly. I took a deep breath and ran out, and I did it,” said “man-bird” Sergei Bubka (42, Ukraine) as he revisited the place of his former glory 18 years after the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Former pole-vaulter now an IOC official-

Bubka arrived in Seoul on March 31 to attend a meeting of the Association of National Olympics Committees as an International Olympics Committee executive and Ukrainian Olympics Committee chairman. “Being in Seoul again makes my heart pound fast,” said the former pole vaulting star. “It’s a beautiful city and people are nice. It is a special place for me.”

Bubka is considered to be one of the best track and field athletes of the 20th Century. Bubka’s global stardom started with winning the gold medal in the pole vault in the Seoul Olympics representing the former Soviet Union. The gold medal he won in Seoul was to be his last one in Olympics. After Seoul, Bubka renewed the world record thirty-five times and won six world championships, but the fate never led him to another Olympics. The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In the 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, and 2000 Sydney Olympics, he dropped out in qualifiers or forfeited due to injuries. This makes Seoul a special place for Bubka.

Memories of glory-

Bubka is a good friend of Yun Kang-roh, the director of the Olympics bid committee for the city of Pyeongchang. Bubka asked Yun to take him to the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. Bubka was filed with joy seeing the same field 18 years ago. He leaped around and struck a landing pose in the sandbox. Leaving the stadium, Bubka’s ride passed by the Olympic village now converted into an apartment complex. Bubka stopped by at the apartment and looked around his former quarters.

Jae-Yun Jung jaeyuna@donga.com