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Sunday, 4 February, 2001, 16:53 GMT
Bubka says farewell
Sergei Bubka
Bubka broke the world record an incredible 35 times
At the 2000 Olympics, Sergei Bubka passed in the pole vault competition until the bar reached 5.70m.

When he was at his best, that would have been an easy height for him.

But in Sydney, it was too much. Bubka missed his starting height three times - running under the bar, not getting close to the height, then knocking the bar off.

It was a sad end to a brilliant career.

Bubka wins his first World gold in 1983
Bubka wins his first World gold in 1983
On Sunday, Bubka officially retired at his own pole-vault meet in his hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine.

"It's a joyful but also a very sad day for me," said the 37-year-old, who was born in Lugansk, 120km from Donetsk, in December 1963, the son of an army officer and a nurse.

"I earned certain success as a pole vaulter but I would never reach it without your support," Bubka told the 6,000 fans who came to see him off.

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma has named Bubka a Hero of Ukraine, while Prince Albert of Monaco, IAAF President Lamine Diack and Ukrainian international football striker Andrei Shevchenko sent videod congratulations which were broadcast on screens at the arena.

He will be remembered for his record six consecutive world championships, his Olympic gold medal and the 35 times he broke the world record.

Most critics agree that there has been no greater vaulter that Bubka - and he would have added to his achievements but for a series of leg and tendon injuries that required surgery in his latter years.

Bubka's indoor world record of 6.15m and outdoor record of 6.14m set the bar high, and no one has come close.

He left his mark in history
  Stacy Dragila
"I only saw him in his later years, but he still was 'The Man'," said Stacy Dragila, the first Olympic women's pole vault gold medalist.

"Everyone was looking to him. He was full of surprises.

"It's sad to see him go. He left his mark in history, and they're still chasing his marks."

Although only 1.84m tall and 80kg, Bubka had enormous strength, speed and gymnastic ability. He also gripped the pole higher than most vaulters, giving him extra leverage.

"Technically, he wasn't that much different from the rest of us - it's the amount of force he was able to generate," said Kory Tarpenning, once the leading men's vaulter in the United States.

"He put 10 or 15 per cent more energy into the pole, and that's the reason he went higher than anyone else."

Bubka: Huge power
Bubka had the perfect mix of speed and strength
Sergei Bubka came to prominence at the 1983 World Championships aged just 19.

Torrential rain forced postponement of the qualifying competition, and heavy rain again hit the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki when the 27 vaulters gathered for the final the following day.

In the seven-hour final, under appalling conditions, Bubka was the only vaulter to improve his best, soaring 5.70m.

The best

He went on to win the next five world titles, the only athlete to accumulate six golds.

His defence of the title at the 1997 championships at Athens, where he had been written off pre-championships, was one of the great moments in track and field history.

His performances at the Olympics, however, were not so dominant. He won gold in 1988, with an Olympic record of 5.90m, but that was his only medal in four attempts.

Everywhere else, though, Bubka was the best.

"When I think back to what I have done, I believe that I have contributed to the history of athletics." he said.

Bubka will not be leaving the sport - he was elected as an International Olympic Commitee (IOC) executive committee member as well as a member of the Ukrainian Athletics Federation council and has a place on the IAAF commission.

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See also:

27 Sep 00 |  Athletics-Field
Bubka fails to reach final
10 Aug 00 |  Athletics-Field
Bubka confirms Sydney farewell
09 Aug 00 |  Athletics-Field
Sergei seeks glorious goodbye
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