|High Jump||2.01||Bruxelles (Boudewijnstadion)||11 SEP 2015|
|High Jump||2.01||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG 2015|
|High Jump||2.01||Stockholm (Globe Arena)||06 FEB 2014|
|2015||2.01||Bruxelles (Boudewijnstadion)||11 SEP|
|2015||2.01||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG|
|2014||2.00||Zürich (Letzigrund)||28 AUG|
|2014||2.00||Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France)||05 JUL|
|2011||1.95||Tallinn (Kadriorg)||24 JUL|
|2015||1.99||Moskva (CSKA)||01 FEB|
|2014||2.01||Stockholm (Globe Arena)||06 FEB|
|15th IAAF World Championships||1||2.01||Beijing (National Stadium)||29 AUG 2015|
|2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014||1||1.99||Marrakech (Le Grande Stade)||14 SEP 2014|
|IAAF World Indoor Championships 2014||1||2.00||Sopot (Ergo Arena)||08 MAR 2014|
|14th IAAF World Junior Championships||3||1.88||Barcelona (Estadio Olímpico)||15 JUL 2012|
|1st Youth Olympic Games (athletics)||1q1||1.76||Singapore||18 AUG 2010|
|6th IAAF World Youth Championships||2||1.85||Bressanone||10 JUL 2009|
Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.
Updated 17 August 2015
Mariya KUCHINA, Russia (High Jump)
Born 14 January 1993, Prokhladny (Kabardino-Balkaria)
1.80 m / 58 kg
Coach: Boris Gorkov, Gennadiy Gabrilyan
Mariya Kuchina has a distinctive jumper’s stature. She is tall and slim, has long legs. But who knows, how long it would have taken for a girl from the small city Prokhladny in the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkaria to find her way to athletics, if not for a bit of a luck. Kuchina’s physical education teacher was also an athletics coach at a sports school. He singled Mariya out and invited her to join his group. “I agreed right away, because I always loved PE lessons. I enjoyed running and jumping, and Gabrilyan’s lessons were never boring, as well as our training sessions. I remember how I cried every time I caught cold and wasn’t allowed to go to training,” smiled Kuchina.
Kuchina’s specialisation in the high jump took place in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2008 that she realised that jumping was more than a hobby, it was starting to become a profession. That year the 15-year-old athlete won the Russian Youth Championships, clearing the bar at 1.83m, which is one centimetre higher than a “Master of Sports” standard in a Russian classification.
The following year Kuchina was selected to represent Russia at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Bressanone. There, she jumped 1.85m and placed second behind another outstanding youngster, Italia’s Alessia Trost. It was the beginning of a constant rivalry. “I wasn’t upset about losing, it just meant that there was someone, who was stronger at that moment. Moreover, she was competing at home, everyone was cheering for her. I was already looking forward to competing against her in Moscow, at the European Youth Olympic Trials in 2010,” remembered Kuchina.
Spectators’ support always meant a lot for Mariya and helped her to excel in the sector. “Coach Gabrilyan used to joke, that I needed a judge’s table and stands full of spectators to jump high. It’s not that I love to show off, I am a pretty shy person. But in competition the attention helps, it keeps adrenaline flowing in and makes me want to perform at my best,” she explained.
The support of the home crowd did help Mariya at the European Youth Olympic Trials, held in May 2010 in the “Luzhniki” Sports Complex. The event’s poster girl, Kuchina was dominant, equalling a personal best of 1.90m, while Trost was six centimetres behind. At the Youth Olympics in Singapore, two months later, Kuchina was stronger once again, taking the gold with a 1.89m clearance. Trost placed second with 1.86m.
One month after the victory in Singapore, Kuchina was dealing with major changes in her life. She moved to Volgograd to study at the Volgograd State Academy of Physical Culture and work under a new coach - Boris Gorkov, the one who led Yelena Slesarenko to her Athens 2004 Olympic gold (but wasn’t working with Slesarenko anymore, when he took over Kuchina’s training). “I still work with both Gabrilyan and Gorkov, they both try to travel to my competitions. Coach Gabrilyan actually first talked to Gorkov about my possible move back in 2009. My coaches are extremely like-minded, so it works out well. For example, I did most of my training for this winter season back in Prokhladny. There is an indoor sports hall with just enough space for my eight-step approach. And of course, it’s always good to be home, with my friends and family around,” Kuchina said.
Kuchina’s junior campaign started with a bang. At her third competition of the 2011 indoor season, in Trinec, she improved her indoor personal best three times. The 18-year-old athlete cleared 1.92m and 1.94m from the first try and then jumped 1.97m in her second attempt to win the meet and set the World Indoor Junior best. The previous record (1.96m) belonged to Desislava Aleksandrova from Bulgaria and had stood since 1994.
Kuchina couldn’t repeat this performance at the European Indoor Championships, where she placed ninth in the qualification with 1.92m. “It was the first time ever I finished so far from the top-3. It was a disappointment. Unfortunately I didn’t have my coaches with me to give me technical advice in competition, I couldn’t deal with it on my own,” the athlete recalled.
But Mariya had an important summer event to focus on - the European Junior Championships 2011 in Tallinn. In Estonia, Kuchina left her rivals no chances, winning with a personal best of 1.95m. “It was my goal to set a personal best, and I did it. I knew I was a medal contender, but I was still very nervous in the sector,” she confessed.
In 2012, Mariya once again won in Trinec with an impressive 1.96m, but third place at the National Indoor Trials didn’t allow her to make the team for the main event of the season - the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.
For Kuchina it was more important to get ready for the summer, as she had had the qualification for the London 2012 Olympics in mind for quite a long time. But on March 21, during a training session, Kuchina injured her shoulder. For the next month and a half she kept working out, but couldn’t do any technical training sessions. It affected the whole outdoor season. Kuchina placed seventh at the National Trials and only took bronze at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona with 1.88m. Trost, for the first time since 2009, was better than Mariya, clearing 1.91m, and Lissa Labiche from Seychelles won silver on countback. “Jumping 1.88m at the World Championships is awful. I had no excuses, that injury and a little rain during the final - it’s just small things. I can only blame myself,” said the Russian in the mixed zone, fighting tears.
In 2013, Kuchina only did one competition during the indoor season, but her best result and personal best was set indoors… in June. At the European Team Championships in Gateshead it was pouring with rain, so pole vaulters and high jumpers had to compete in a small indoor facility. This unexpected switch didn’t faze Mariya and she won, clearing the bar at 1.98m. “This competition has a different format - you can only fail four times overall, so I was very careful at each height. I don’t know how I could preserve some energy for 1.98m, but I was very motivated. And I had my principal rival Trost in the sector. Before Gateshead we were even, 3-3, so I really wanted to win,” Kuchina recalled.
The next competition on Kuchina’s agenda was the World Universiade in Kazan. There, Mariya placed second behind Poland’s Kamila Licwinko, losing on countback with an outdoor personal best of 1.96m. At the Russian Championships, Kuchina was fourth with 1.92m, losing on countback to Yelena Slesarenko, and missed out on a team berth for the Moscow 2013 World Championships.
One of Mariya’s constant sources of support during hard times is her longtime boyfriend and a fellow high jumper Vadim Vrublevskiy. “He always there for me! However, we never discuss jumping. We have different coaches, different technique. I don’t generally like to debate jumping and prefer not to discuss a training session, once it’s over,” Kuchina explained.
Patience always pays off, and the 2014 season, was proof of this statement for Kuchina. It was the time for the Russian hopeful to blossom: to claim a permanent place in the world’s elite and start to feel comfortable at a two-metre height.
Kuchina’s indoor campaign 2014 started on 16 January at the Lukashevich memorial in Chelyabinsk, where Mariya won with a personal best of 2.00m, beating runner-up Oksana Starostina by 11 centimetres. Given the fact that the Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and the World champion Svetlana Shkolina weren’t competing indoors, Kuchina turned into a potential team leader for the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, as well as the World Leader.
In February she further improved her personal best in Stockholm (2.01m) and won her first Russian senior title, jumping 1.94m in Moscow. “I was so happy to win the Russian Championships for the first time! I also had some decent attempts at 2.02m there, but the competition was held in the morning, so I had a hard time with execution. There were many heights cleared on the second attempt, something to work on before Sopot,” she admitted.
The World Indoors were eventful for the young Russian. First major senior event, and first time stepping into the sector as the World Leader. Not the most comfortable feeling, but something to start getting used to… “I do feel the pressure. It doesn’t help, but my coach always tells me, that it should be this way: I should enter the arena feeling as a leader, and make my rivals try and get me,” Kuchina explains.
In Sopot, Kuchina soared above the bar at 2.00m in her first attempt. So did the home favourite, Kamila Licwinko. Both the Russian and the Pole couldn’t clear 2.02m. With the same “track record” of failures at previous heights, they were sharing the first place and all other competitors were already out, but Mariya looked disappointed and lost for a few minutes. “I was so sure I lost. I didn’t watch Kamila’s jumps, so I thought she didn’t have any failures before 2.02m, while I did. Losing on countback is the worst feeling, and I experienced it before,” explains Kuchina. “But then she came to me to ask if we would be doing a jump-off for the gold. Then it dawned on me, I declined the jump-off and it was the time to celebrate!” she smiles.
The newly crowned World Indoor champion was in demand for the Diamond League meetings from the very beginning of the season, and Kuchina was taking this opportunity seriously. Fourth place at the Prefontaine Classic in her season opener, victory in Oslo, second place and her first outdoor 2.00m clearance in Paris. Add to this a confident victory at the European Team Championships in Germany, and once again Kuchina was approaching the main competition of the season - Zurich 2014 European Championships - as the one to beat.
Mariya opened her competition in the final early, at 1.85m, didn’t skip any heights and didn’t fail a single attempt until the bar was raised to 2.01m, one centimetre higher than her outdoor personal best. Her first attempt was almost perfect, but the bar didn’t stay in place. While the most titled competitor in the field, Spain’s Ruth Beitia, was successful from the first try, setting her season’s best. Mariya couldn’t clear the bar in the last two attempts at 2.01m and had to settle for silver. She couldn’t hide her disappointment, but admitted that, most of all, it was Beitia’s amazing effort and experience that determined the final result.
Coach Gabrilyan was also content with his athlete’s performance: “It was the peak of our season, and she indeed showed her best jumping today. Mariya indeed has the shortest approach in the field, just eight steps (determined by the training space she had in Prokhladny), but I don’t think we’re going to change the technique in the nearest future anyway.”
Just 11 days later, Kuchina was back at the Letzigrund stadium in Zürich for the Diamond League final. This time, 21-year-old Kuchina cleared 2.00m, leaving Beitia in third place and capturing the Diamond trophy.
“I knew I could win the trophy, but what mattered the most was to gain a victory in this arena and in pretty much the same company,” admitted Mariya. “But in fact, I’m already over my defeat at the European Championships. And this Diamond League victory… I should move on as soon as possible, too,” she said in an interview for the R-Sport agency.
It was especially true, as Kuchina had one more competition to take part in – the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech. The Russian was victorious again. “I wasn’t feeling overly tired or struggling during the last stint of competitions this season,” Kuchina admitted. “We planned this all along. My coach wanted to see how long I could maintain my shape.”
After just two weeks of vacation, Mariya started preparations for another busy season with four major competitions on the agenda: European Indoor Championships, European Team Championships, European U23 Championships and World Championships.
The first two on the list went smoothly, bringing two more gold medals to Kuchina’s collection. But the third one brought one of the biggest disappointments in her career. In Tallinn, the Russian couldn’t clear the bar at 1.81m, the height at which she would often start a competition.
“My coach and I, we changed something technically in training, coming into the Championships. And it led to this failure in competition,” said Mariya. “But in the next practice after coming back, everything finally clicked, and I jumped 2.00 in Monaco just a couple of days later.”
This mishap aside, Kuchina is approaching the World Championships Beijing 2015 as a strong medal contender. And don’t expect her to have Tallinn flashbacks at the Bird’s Nest. Mentally strong, the athlete is always taking it one competition at a time.
“If she fails an attempt, I tell her to not look back at it. Imagine a river, if it flows and there is a rapid on the way, the river just keeps flowing forward,” said coach Gabrilyan in an interview for the R-Sport agency.
2.00m (2.01m i)
2007:1.73; 2008:1.83, 2009:1.87; 2010:1.91; 2011: 1.95 (1.97i); 2012: 1.89 (1.96i); 2013: 1.96 (1.98i); 2014: 2.00 (2.01i); 2015: 2.00
|2008||1st||Russian Youth Championships (Vladimir)||1.83|
|2009||2nd||World Youth Championships (Bressanone)||1.85|
|2010||1st||European Youth Olympic Trials (Moscow)||1.90|
|2010||1st||Russian Youth Championships (Penza)||1.91|
|2010||1st||Youth Olympic Games (Singapore)||1.89|
|2011||1st||Russian Indoor Junior Championships (Saransk)||1.83|
|2011||3rd||Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)||1.87|
|2011||1st||Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary)||1.94|
|2011||1st||European Junior Championships (Tallinn)||1.95|
|2012||1st||Russian Indoor Junior Championships (Volgograd)||1.86|
|2012||3rd||Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)||1.91|
|2012||1st||Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary)||1.89|
|2012||3rd||World Junior Championships (Barcelona)||1.88|
|2013||1st||European Team Championships (Gateshead)||1.98|
|2013||2nd||World Universiade (Kazan)||1.96|
|2014||1st||Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow)||1.94|
|2014||1st||World Indoor Championships (Sopot)||2.00|
|2014||1st||European Team Championships (Braunschweig)||1.95|
|2014||1st||Russian Championships (Kazan)||1.92|
|2014||2nd||European Championships (Zürich)||1.99|
|2014||1st||Continental Cup (Marrakech)||1.99|
|2015||1st||European Indoor Championships (Prague)||1.99|
|2015||1st||European Team Championships (Cheboksary)||1.99|
|2015||12th||European U23 Championships (Tallinn)||1.71 (1.82Q)|
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2015