Born in Voroshilovgrad, 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 m 75 cm (19 ft 2 in).
Until the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, Bubka competed for Soviet teams.
Serhiy Nazarovych Bubka is a former Ukrainian pole vaulter.
He represented the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991, was twice named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News, and in 2012 was one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame.
When his coach, Vitaly Petrov, was transferred to Donetsk from neighboring Luhansk, Bubka’s hometown, six years later, Sergey, along with his older brother who was also a vaulter, followed.
Virtually unknown when he competed at the World Athletics Championship in Helsinki in 1983, he won the event with a vault of 5.70 metres which announced him as a world star.
Bubka first set the outdoor world record in Bratislava in May 1984 and broke it twice over the next few weeks.
Once considered unattainable, he cleared 6.00 metres for the first time in July 1985 in Paris.
Dominating the sport for more than a decade, he broke the world record 35 times and still holds the outdoor world record of 6.14 (1994) metres.
That’s taller than most giraffes, the tallest animal in the world.
The Olympic Games provided mixed fortunes for Bubka.
He was prevented from competing in Los Angeles in 1984 due to the Soviet boycott – a decision which still hurts him today.
In Seoul in 1988, he won gold but a loss of form and injury hindered his hopes of winning more Olympic medals.
He made up for it in the IAAF World Athletics Championships, winning the pole vault event in six consecutive editions from 1983 to 1997.
Bubka was designated UNESCO Champion for Sport in 2003 in recognition of his role in the promotion of peace and tolerance through sport and the Olympic spirit, his humanitarian activities in favour of young people, his action to enable disadvantaged children to benefit from physical education, and his dedication to UNESCO ideals.
As President of the National Olympic Committee in 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, realize the potential of the most abled 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.