Sergey Bubka

Serhiy Nazarovych Bubka[2] (Ukrainian: Сергій Назарович Бубка, born 4 December 1963) is a Ukrainian former pole vaulter. He represented the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. Bubka was twice named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News,[3] and in 2012 was one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame.[4]

Serhiy Bubka
Sergey Bubka in January 2013
Personal information
Native nameСергій Назарович Бубка
Full nameSerhiy Nazarovych Bubka
Born (1963-12-04) 4 December 1963
Luhansk, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
EducationPhD in Pedagogy, Physical culture
Alma materUkrainian Academy of Pedagogical Science, Kyiv State Institute of Physical Culture
Years active1981–2001
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight80 kg (176 lb)
Chair of the NOC of Ukraine
Assumed office
23 June 2005[1]
Preceded byViktor Yanukovych
Country Soviet Union (1981–1991)
 Ukraine (1991–2001)
SportTrack and field
Event(s)Pole vault
Turned pro1981
Coached byVitaly Petrov (first coach)
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the  Soviet Union
Olympic Games
1988 SeoulPole vault
World Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
1983 HelsinkiPole vault
1987 RomePole vault
1991 TokyoPole vault
Representing  Ukraine
1993 StuttgartPole vault
1995 GothenburgPole vault
1997 AthensPole vault
World Indoor Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
1985 ParisPole vault
1987 IndianapolisPole vault
1991 SevillaPole vault
Representing  Ukraine
1995 BarcelonaPole vault
European Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
1986 StuttgartPole vault
European Indoor Championships
Representing the  Soviet Union
1985 AthensPole vault
Goodwill Games
Representing the  Soviet Union
1986 MoscowPole vault
Updated on 8 September 2012.

Bubka won six consecutive IAAF World Championships, an Olympic gold medal and broke the world record for men's pole vault 35 times.[5] He was the first pole vaulter to clear 6.0 metres and 6.10 metres.[6][7]

He held the indoor world record of 6.15 meters, set on 21 February 1993 in Donetsk, Ukraine[8] for almost 21 years until France's Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 metres on 15 February 2014 at the same meet in the same arena.[9] He held the outdoor world record at 6.14 meters between 31 July 1994,[10] and 17 September 2020 when Sweden's Armand Duplantis cleared 6.15 meters, though since adopting rule 260.18a in 2000 the IAAF regards the indoor record as the official "world record."[11]

Bubka is Senior Vice President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), serving since 2007, and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, serving since 2005. He is also an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), having been involved since 1996. His older brother, Vasiliy Bubka, was also a medal-winning pole vaulter.


Born in Luhansk, Bubka was a track-and-field athlete in the 100-meter dash and the long jump, but became a world-class champion only when he turned to the pole vault. In 1983, virtually unknown internationally, he won the world championship in Helsinki, Finland, and the following year set his first world record, clearing 5.85m (19 ft 2 in). Until the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, Bubka competed for Soviet teams. The Soviet sports system rewarded athletes for setting new world records, and he became noted for establishing new records by slim amounts, sometimes as little as a centimeter higher. This allowed him to collect frequent bonus payments and made Bubka an attraction at track-and-field meets. By 1992, he was no longer bound to the Soviet system, and signed a contract with Nike[12] that rewarded each world record performance with special bonuses of $40,000.[13]

He has a son who was a professional tennis player, whose name is Sergei.

Pole vault career

Sergey Bubka started competing on the international athletics scene in 1981 when he participated in the European Junior Championship finishing seventh. But the 1983 World Championship held in Helsinki was his actual entry point to the world athletics, where a relatively unknown Bubka snatched the gold, clearing 5.70 metres (18 feet 8 inches). The years that followed witnessed the unparalleled dominance of Bubka, with him setting new records and standards in pole vaulting.

He set his first world record of 5.85m on 26 May 1984 which he improved to 5.88m a week later, and then to 5.90m a month later. He cleared 6.00 metres (19 feet 8 inches) for the first time on 13 July 1985 in Paris.[7] This height had long been considered unattainable. With virtually no opponents, Bubka improved his own record over the next 10 years until he reached his career best and the then world record of 6.14 m (20 feet 134 inches) in 1994. He primarily vaulted on UCS Spirit poles throughout his later career.[14][15]

He became the first athlete ever to jump over 6.10 metres, in San Sebastián, Spain in 1991. Until January 2014, no other athlete on earth had cleared 6.07, indoors or outdoors. In 1994, he achieved his personal record with a vault of 6.14 meters, long after many commentators assumed the great sportsman was retired. Bubka increased the world record by 21 centimetres (8 inches) in the period from 1984 to 1988, more than other pole vaulters had achieved in the previous 12 years. He cleared 6.00 meters or better on 45 occasions.[16] As of June 2015, 6 meters had been cleared by all athletes worldwide exactly 100 times.[17]

Bubka officially retired from pole vault in 2001 during a ceremony at his Pole Vault Stars meeting in Donetsk.[18]

Olympics curse

Despite his dominance in pole vault, Bubka had a relatively poor record in the Olympic Games. The first Olympics after Bubka's introduction to the international athletics was held in 1984 and was boycotted by the USSR along with the majority of other Eastern Bloc countries. Two months before the Games he vaulted 12 cm higher than the eventual Olympic gold medal winner Pierre Quinon. In 1988 Bubka competed in the Seoul Olympics and won his only Olympic gold medal clearing 5.90 m. In 1992 he failed to clear in his first three attempts (5.70, 5.70, 5.75 m) and was out of the Barcelona Olympics. At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 a heel injury caused him to withdraw from the competition without any attempts. In 2000 at the Sydney Olympics he was eliminated from the final after three unsuccessful attempts at 5.70 m.[19]

IAAF World championships

Bubka won the pole vault event in six IAAF World Championships in Athletics in the period from 1983 to 1997:

Year Competition Venue Position Winning height
1983 World Championships Helsinki 1st 5.70 m (18 ft 8+716 in)
1987 World Championships Rome 1st 5.85 m (19 ft 2+516 in)
1991 World Championships Tokyo 1st 5.95 m (19 ft 6+14 in)
1993 World Championships Stuttgart 1st 6.00 m (19 ft 8+14 in)
1995 World Championships Gothenburg 1st 5.92 m (19 ft 5+116 in)
1997 World Championships Athens 1st 6.01 m (19 ft 8+58 in)

World record progression by Bubka

Bubka broke the world record for men's pole vault 35 times during his career.[5] He broke the outdoor world record 17 times and the indoor world record 18 times. Bubka lost his outdoor world record only once in his illustrious career. After Thierry Vigneron, of France, broke his record on 31 August 1984 at the Golden Gala international track meet in Rome, Bubka subsequently reclaimed the record on his next attempt on the same runway, just minutes later.[20]

Height Date Place
6.14 m (20 ft 1+34 in)31 July 1994Sestriere
6.13 m (20 ft 1+516 in)19 September 1992Tokyo
6.12 m (20 ft 1516 in)30 August 1992Padua
6.11 m (20 ft 916 in)13 June 1992Dijon
6.10 m (20 ft 316 in)5 August 1991Malmö
6.09 m (19 ft 11+34 in)8 July 1991Formia
6.08 m (19 ft 11+38 in)9 June 1991Moscow
6.07 m (19 ft 11 in)6 May 1991Shizuoka
6.06 m (19 ft 10+916 in)10 July 1988Nice
6.05 m (19 ft 10+316 in)9 June 1988Bratislava
6.03 m (19 ft 9+38 in)23 June 1987Prague
6.01 m (19 ft 8+58 in)8 June 1986Moscow
6.00 m (19 ft 8+14 in)13 June 1985Paris
5.94 m (19 ft 5+78 in)31 August 1984Rome
5.90 m (19 ft 4+516 in)13 July 1984London
5.88 m (19 ft 3+12 in)2 June 1984Paris
5.85 m (19 ft 2+516 in)26 May 1984Bratislava
Height Date Place
6.15 m (20 ft 2+18 in)21 February 1993Donetsk
6.14 m (20 ft 1+34 in)13 February 1993Lievin
6.13 m (20 ft 1+516 in)22 February 1992Berlin
6.12 m (20 ft 1516 in)23 March 1991Grenoble
6.11 m (20 ft 916 in)19 March 1991Donetsk
6.10 m (20 ft 316 in)15 March 1991San Sebastián
6.08 m (19 ft 11+38 in)9 February 1991Volgograd
6.05 m (19 ft 10+316 in)17 March 1990Donetsk
6.03 m (19 ft 9+38 in)11 February 1989Osaka
5.97 m (19 ft 7+116 in)17 March 1987Turin
5.96 m (19 ft 6+58 in)15 January 1987Osaka
5.95 m (19 ft 6+14 in)28 February 1986New York City
5.94 m (19 ft 5+78 in)21 February 1986Inglewood
5.92 m (19 ft 5+116 in)8 February 1986Moscow
5.87 m (19 ft 3+18 in)15 January 1986Osaka
5.83 m (19 ft 1+12 in)10 February 1984Inglewood
5.82 m (19 ft 1+18 in)1 February 1984Milano
5.81 m (19 ft 34 in)15 January 1984Vilnius


Sergey Bubka statue, Donetsk

Bubka possessed great strength, speed and gymnastic abilities.[5] He gripped the pole higher than most vaulters to get extra leverage, though Bubka himself played down the effect of grip alone.[21]

His development and mastery of the Petrov/Bubka technical model is also considered a key to his success. (A technical model is a sequence of positions and pressures which describe the method and style form of pole vaulting.) The Petrov/Bubka model is considered superior to many others today, because it allows the vaulter to continuously put energy into the pole while rising towards the bar. Most conventional models focus on creating maximum bend in the pole before leaving the ground, by planting the pole heavily on the landing pad. The Petrov/Bubka model follows the technique used by Kjell Isaksson,[22][23][24][25] which concentrates on driving the pole up, rather than bending it while planting it on the landing pad, combined with high running speed. While the traditional models depended on the recoil by bending the pole, the Petrov/Bubka model may exploit the recoil of the pole and exert more energy on the pole during the swinging action.

Awards and positions held

  • Bubka won the Prince of Asturias Award in Sports in 1991
  • Bubka was awarded the best sportsman of the Soviet Union for three years in a row from 1984 to 1986
  • Bubka was voted Sportsman of the Year for 1997 by the influential newspaper L'Équipe
  • Bubka was honored as the best pole vaulter of the last half century by Track & Field News
  • Bubka entered in FICTS Hall Of Fame and was awarded with Excellence Guirlande d'Honneur in 2001.
  • Bubka was designated an IAAF council member in 2001. In 2011, he was elected a Vice-President of the organization for a four-year term.[26]
  • He is currently serving as the president of National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and is an IOC member[27]
  • Bubka was designated UNESCO Champion for Sport in 2003[28]
  • In 2005 he received the Panathlon International Flambeau d'Or for his contribution to the development and promotion of sport.[29]
  • From 2002 to 2006, he was a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and its Committee on youth policy, physical culture, sport and tourism[30][31]
  • Bubka won the Marca Leyenda in 2005
  • Completed his term in IOC athletes commission in August 2008[32]

Today Bubka is a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club, a group of more than 90 famous elite created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization placed under the High Patronage of H.S.H Prince Albert II. This group of top level champions, wish to make sport a tool for dialogue and social cohesion.


Bubka has been involved with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) since 2001 and has served as a Vice President since 2007. During this time, he remained on the Athletes’ Commission (2001–2011) and is also a Council Member for ASOIF, the Association for Summer Olympic International Federations. Bubka commented: “I have been working at the IAAF for a long time and my work is not limited to one area. The good of athletics is something deep in my heart.” Bubka has been IAAF Council Member (2001-), IAAF Senior Vice-President (2007–2011), Vice-President (2011-), IAAF Development Commission Deputy Chairman (2007–2011), then Chairman (2011-), IAAF Athletes Commission member (2001–2011) and IAAF Competition Commission member (2003-). He was also a Coordination Commission Chairman of IAAF World Championships in Daegu 2011 and Moscow 2013.

National Olympic Committee

As President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine since 2005, he has transformed the organisation into one of the most progressive in the world. It has staff based in all of the nation's 27 regions with each taking responsibility for delivering an array of programmes designed to bring youngsters into sport, realise the potential of the most able and promote the Olympic Movement and its values. A National Olympic Day, the Olympic Stork which provides Olympic-themed education to more than 250,000 school classes across the country, televised annual awards and an Olympic Academy have all been established under Bubka's reign. “NOCs must do more than select and send teams to Olympic Games,” says Bubka. “They are at the forefront of efforts to educate young people and help them become involved in sport and adopt a healthy lifestyle. To do that we need to work together globally because if we don’t we risk losing the younger generation.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Sergey Bubka first got involved with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1996 when he was elected as a Member of the Athletes’ Commission, providing input into the governance of sport from the perspective of an active athlete. Almost 20 years later he is still involved as an Honorary Member. “I knew that I wanted to be involved in running sport and, in particular to be involved in the Olympic Movement,” he said. He became an IOC Member in 1999 and has been involved in a wide range of Commissions, including Chairman of the Evaluation and then the Coordination Commissions for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010. On 28 May 2013 Sergey Bubka announced that he would run for President of the International Olympic Committee. At the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires he lost the vote to Thomas Bach.[33]


Sergey Bubka (1987). An Attempt Is Reserved (in Russian). Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya.

See also


  1. Ten years ago Serhiy Bubka was placed in charge of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine (10 років тому Сергій Бубка очолив Національний олімпійський комітет України). UNIAN. 23 June 2015
  2. Honorary and Goodwill Ambassadors
  3. "Track and Field Athlete of the Year". Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  4. "Hall of Fame | Athletes". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  5. "Bubka says farewell". BBC News. 4 February 2001. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  6. "Top Lists: Pole Vault". Retrieved 29 June 2009. (Indoor)
  7. "Top Lists: Pole Vault". Retrieved 29 June 2009. (Outdoor)
  10. "Pole Vault - men - senior - outdoor". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  11. "World Records". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  12. Sandomir, Richard (12 April 1992). "OLYMPICS; Top Athletes Are Being Wooed to Fill Some Big Shoes". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  13. O'Connor, Ian (1 August 1996). "Sore Bubka cannot soar". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  14. Price, David (4 August 2017). "Carson Valley has a new 'Spirit'". The Record-Courier. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  15. "A Family Company". ucsspirit. UCS Spirit. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  16. "The Legendary Sergey Bubka". Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  17. "Men's pole vault". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  18. Pole vault legend Sergei Bubka retires. The Independent (4 February 2001). Retrieved on 12 February 2011.
  19. "Sydney 2000 results". Archived from the original on 22 November 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  20. Bubka finishes 1st in world-record vault battle Associated Press (1 September 1984). Retrieved on 21 May 2012.
  21. "On the Road to Atlanta". The Ukrainian Weekly. 2 June 1996. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  22. "Pole vault plant by Kjell Isaksson". YouTube. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. "Looking for old footage/information on kjell isaksson(FOUND)". Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  26. "International Association of Athletics Federations". 24 August 2011. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  27. "IOC > Members > Sergey Bubka". Official Website of the Olympic Movement. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  28. "Ukrainian athlete Serhiy Bubka designated UNESCO Champion for Sport". 4 November 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  29. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. "Fredericks succeeds Bubka as chairman of IOC's Athletes Commission_English_Xinhua". 5 August 2008. Archived from the original on 27 November 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  31. "Sergei Bubka: Pole vault great wants to be IOC president". 28 May 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
Preceded by
Viktor Yanukovych
President of Ukrainian NOC
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Thierry Vigneron
Thierry Vigneron
Men's Pole Vault World Record Holder
26 May – 31 August 1984
31 August 1984 – 15 February 2014
Succeeded by
Thierry Vigneron
Renaud Lavillenie
Preceded by
Billy Olson
Billy Olson
Joe Dial
Billy Olson
Rodion Gataulin
Men's Pole Vault Indoor World Record Holder
15 January – 4 March 1984
15–17 January 1986
8 February 1986
21 February 1986 – 22 January 1989
11 February 1989 – 15 February 2014
Succeeded by
Thierry Vigneron
Billy Olson
Billy Olson
Rodion Gataulin
Renaud Lavillenie
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Carl Lewis
Michael Johnson
L'Équipe Champion of Champions
Succeeded by
Diego Maradona
Zinedine Zidane
Preceded by
Carl Lewis
Gazzetta dello Sport
Sportsman of the Year

Succeeded by
Diego Maradona
Preceded by
Ben Johnson
Michael Johnson
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Roger Kingdom
Kevin Young
Preceded by
Stefan Edberg
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Kevin Young
Preceded by
Alfonso Pons
Prince of Asturias Award for Sports
Succeeded by
Miguel Indurain
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Thierry Vigneron
Rodion Gataullin
Okkert Brits
Men's Pole Vault Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Rodion Gataullin
Okkert Brits
Jeff Hartwig
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Flagbearer for  Ukraine
Atlanta 1996
Succeeded by
Yevhen Braslavets
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