Moscow, RussiaCan a career start at the age of 28? It was probably a question that Ukrainian multi-eventer Lyudmila Blonska, a mother of two, was asking herself when she arrived here in temperatures of minus six degrees.
Cold outside perhaps, but there was little doubt the hot property of the women’s Pentathlon at the 11th IAAF World Indoor Championships.
The World Student Games Heptathlon champion from last year has been competing on the major stage since finishing fifth in European Under-23 Championships in 1997. But here in Russia, her finest hour as she led from start to finish of an event where she fended off the close challenge of Karin Ruckstuhl, of the Netherlands.
She ended with a Pentathlon personal best of 4685, ahead of Ruckstuhl with 4607 and Olga Levenokova, of Russia, third with 4579.
A glory in the winter she hopes she will be able to take into the summer’s European Championships and then build a foundation which will keep her among the best multi-event women in the world.
“I have had better results in summer competitions before and I did not think that I could have such success in winter events,” said Blonska. “Many people told me ‘Why do you continue to compete? You have two children now, you cannot have good results’. But I wanted to prove them and to myself that I can.”
“It is warm here but it is better than when it is cold. We don’t spend so much time to warm up as in a cold stadium.”
But has age ever deterred a multi-eventer? We only have to turn the clock back to last summer when the sport witnessed one of its greatest ever clashes in the Heptathlon at the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Helsinki, Finland. The defending champion was Carolina Klüft, the bubbly Olympic gold medallist from Sweden. She was 22 but she was pushed all the way by French star Eunice Barber. At 30, she showed no sign of letting an eight-year age gap prove a problem at all.
It was a thrilling duel, which Klüft in the end won, but if Blonska needed any further inspiration it could arrive from the efforts of Barber in Helsinki.
While the world of sprinting might be dominated by the younger competitor these days, the experience needed to become a successful multi-eventer could work in Blonska’s favour. She showed that here in Moscow, by achieving one of the key tasks in a Pentathlon.
She won the first event, the 60 metres Hurdles, in 8.29 seconds, and from that point on the rest had to play catch-up, which, of course, over seven events or in a decathlon, 10, can be feasible. But it is not always so easy with five.
And so it proved. That was a personal best, which she added to in the Shot Put and Long Jump and though she only wanted to lay on the track at the end of the 800m, having finished fourth, it was enough for victory. Mum was very much the word.
Richard Lewis for the IAAF