Valery Brumel

The last Olympic high jump champion to use the straddle technique

Wednesday 29 January 2003 01:00
Comments

Valery Nikolaevich Brumel, athlete: born Razvedki, Soviet Union 14 May 1942; three times married (one son, one stepson); died Moscow 26 January 2003.

Valery Brumel came from another age of athletics. He was the last Olympic high jump champion to use the straddle technique, before Dick Fosbury came along to revolutionise the event in Mexico City in 1968.

Brumel won the Olympic high jump silver medal for the Soviet Union in Rome in 1960 when aged just 18, and the following year he set the first of six world records, his ultimate effort of 2.28 metres in 1963 standing unequalled for seven years.

In an era of cinder tracks and high jumps often on to rudimentary landing beds and more often into sand pits, Brumel's elegance of technique and joy for competition stood out. In 1963, for instance, in a match between Great Britain and the Soviet Union in Volgograd, it seemed as if the high jump would have to be cancelled because the track was flooded. The Soviets poured petrol on the cinders, set it alight, and boiled off the water. With his jumps illuminated by the beam of car headlights, Brumel won his event, but Britain won the match for the first time on Russian soil.

Brumel will be best known for winning the Olympic title in a five-hour epic in Tokyo the following year. Not in his best form, and suffering a crisis of confidence, Brumel saw off his American rival, John Thomas, on countback.

In 1965, Brumel nearly lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident. Despite the damage, he did manage to jump to a high level again, managing 2.13m (just shy of 7ft) and, in his fifties, he also competed at the 1997 World Masters championships.

Brumel diverted most of his energies in later life towards achieving a doctorate in sports psychology. He also wrote a novel, a play and an opera libretto based on his own life story.

Steven Downes

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in