Updated 24 July 2012
Dmitry STARODUBTSEV, Russia (Pole Vault)
Born 3 January 1986, Krasnogorsk, Chelyabinsk district
1.91 / 84 kg
Coaches: Aleksandr Shalonnikov
While Svetlana Feofanova and Yelena Isinbayeva were heating up the worldwide competition for a decade, Russian male pole vaulters had just a couple of splashes, represented by Igor Pavlov and Yevgeny Lukyanenko. There is another vaulter Dmitry Starodubtsev, who has been considered promising for the last years. And he is eager to finally make it happen.
Dmitry Starodubtsev started doing athletics following the advice of his father, a former middle distance runner. At first he also ran long distances, and was even the Russian school champion on 800m back in 1998. From time to time, Dmitry tried long and high jumping just for fun, so his father suggested that Dmitry should give combined events a try. Dmitry studied the subject and was immediately caught by the pole vault. “At one of the school competitions, my father noticed the pole vault coach Aleksandr Shalonnikov and asked for his advice. He agreed to teach me some basics for combined events, but after a few training sessions, he told me that I probably should focus on the pole vault. To have good facilities for training I had to move to Chelyabinsk,” Starodubtsev said. In his childhood he was also playing the drums, playing volleyball and basketball, but with this move he made the big choice.
Starodubtsev appeared on the international scene when he was 17. It was the 2003 World Youth Championships and the Russian won the silver medal with 5.10m clearance.
Within only one year, Dmitry made a huge improvement. At the 2004 World Junior Championships he cleared 5.50m for the first time in his life, securing the gold. It was not an easy competition for him as he was injured. “I broke my finger around two months prior to the championships and it still hurt. We tried to ice it, but as the weather was hot, it hardly worked. So I had to bandage my joint and endure,” Dmitry said.
5.50m was also sufficient to earn Starodubtsev the European junior title in 2005. It was one of the most emotional competitions in Dmitry’s life. “In the qualification round I had a bad jump during the warm up. I fell all the way down in the metal box and felt a sharp pain in my heel. The weather was cold and rainy, I could no more feel my foot, but I just couldn’t disappoint my team, so I hardly cleared 4.80m and made it to the final. Luckily, there was no fracture, so in two days I could compete on pain killers. When I won and unfolded the Russian flag, I just cried,” Dmitry recalled.
In 2006, Dmitry won the National Indoor Championships with a 5.65m clearance. The World Indoor Championships that year took place in Moscow, but it didn’t help both Starodubtsev and national silver-medalist Pavlov to even make it to the final. They were out with 5.55m. Their head-to-head continued outdoors. With 5.55m Starodubtsev lost to his more experienced colleague on countback at the Nationals. Starodubtsev was on the team for European Championships though, but once more couldn’t make it to the final.
His first major championships final was at the 2007 European Indoors, where he finished sixth with 5.41m. That summer he improved to 5.70m at the National Championships. Four top vaulters cleared this height, but Starodubtsev was the unlucky one to place fourth on count back.
He saved some of his luck for the Olympic year. A PB of 5.75m and the second place at Russian Championships secured Dmitry’s place on the National team. In the Olympic final, he achieved fifth place with a 5.70m clearance. It was a huge success for Dmitry, but it had a little bit of bitter taste because he lost the bronze only on count back. “After Beijing I was frequently told that I shouldn’t have passed 5.75m. But it wasn’t obvious there, as no one knows what your opponents are up to. And I needed some rest after all the 5.70m attempts. The Games were unforgettable, I couldn’t even imagine that the stands of “The Bird’s Nest” could hold so many spectators. You couldn’t even see the highest rows from the field! And it was very satisfying to find yourself among the world leaders of your event, to realise that you are a part of this company,” Dmitry said.
There was another Russian, Yevgeniy Lukyanenko, who impressed the world in Beijing. The Russian Champion came to China with 6.01m SB and cleared 5.85m to grab the silver. But the following year, Lukyanenko started to suffer from illnesses and injuries that kept him out of competition for a couple of seasons. “I didn’t feel that I was a team leader in Lukyanenko’s absence. You must be far ahead of your rivals to call yourself this way. Maybe I was just a bit luckier to win national titles, sometimes on count back. And I definitely was looking forward to Lukyanenko coming back. Or just for someone who could really heat up the competition,” Starodubtsev explained. Indeed, after a low-key 2009 season, Dmitry won two national titles – indoor and outdoor, but then achieved the sixth place at the World Indoors in Doha and NM in the final of the Barcelona European Championships.
2011 brought significant changes to all the Russian pole vault team. Vitaly Petrov, former coach of World record holders Sergey Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva, was appointed the head coach for vaulters. Dmitry revealed that he didn’t feel Petrov’s touch yet, but he had an experience of working with him after the Beijing Olympics. Starodubtsev and his coach Aleksandr Shalonnikov went twice to Petrov’s training camp in Formia. “The facilities in Formia are very good. And the atmosphere is the best for a good work. When you are at home, there is always something do distract or bother you. In Formia all you can think about is athletics. It helps to focus. Petrov has his own coaching system that is not only about jumping, but also about mental preparation. I could take some useful tips, but to make a real difference I needed to go there regularly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to. My expenses were covered, but I didn’t want to go without my coach,” Dmitiy explained.
In the 2011 indoor season, Starodubtsev’s national title turned into the 11th place in qualifying at the Paris European Indoors. Dmitry’s pole broke leaving him no chance for success.
At the Russian Outdoor Championships, Starodubtsev cleared the A-standard of 5.72m and was second on count back behind recovering Lukyanenko to gain his place on the World Championships team. But Daegu wasn’t a success for Dmitry. On his second attempt at 5.75 his pole broke leaving him lying on the mats with the pain and shock from the bruised forearm. He managed to return to the competition and to make remaining attempts at this height, but couldn’t clear the bar. The 12th place bothered him less than the fate, though.
“It’s the fourth time in my career and the second time this year that the pole breaks
Two misfortunes at major championships in 2011 left Dmitry extremely motivated to show his abilities during the Olympic year. And he apparently decided not to wait until the summer. While most of the leaders were still sorting out their indoor schedules, Dmitry literally jump started his season, equaling his indoor best of 5.70 on the 24th of December and bettering it to the ninth European mark of all times of 5.90 on the 29th. It happened in his home city Chelyabinsk at a small students meeting with no serious competition. In fact it was the second time he had cleared 5.90. First it happened earlier in December in Chelyabinsk as well, but with the help of a special platform, so that the result couldn’t be considered official.
“My results at the beginning of the season showed that we approached this year with more intelligence. Moreover I lost some weight and I’m planning to shed a couple more kilos, as it helps me to feel lighter and to gain more speed on the run-up. There is no secret, I just started to pay more attention to my food. I eat more fish, white meat, vegetables. For side dishes I choose only rice and buckwheat”, Dmitry revealed.
Dmitry may have had some fears or doubts concerning his performances but the fear of the pole breaking under him was the last on the list. “I got some new poles after Daegu, but still decided to stick to the old ones. Now I use the poles that are 10 cm shorter and find them optimal. And there is no fear. You forget the accident right the next time when you accomplish a good take-off”, Starodubtsev assured.
At the beginning of 2012 Starodubtsev’s performances were far less stunning than in December. He even dropped out from the Donetsk Pole Vault Stars meeting and it was reported that his season was over due to an injury. But his Russian fans suddenly found him winning the National Trials for the World Indoors with 5.72. Dmitry seemed as surprised as the audience. “I had a niggling hip injury that was torturing me every day. I decided to end the indoor season and take a period of complete rest and rehab. I even started eating more and gained back some weight. But we recently found a clinic that uses new American methods of diagnostics. The therapist worked with me for a couple of hours and said like: “Get up and go!” I tried walking and moving my hip and felt that the pain was completely gone. Next day I came to the track, did one sprint and still felt no pain. I was amazed! We made a decision to enter the selections for Istanbul literally 24 hours before the qualification round”, Dmitry said.
But it turned out that his joy about having no more pain was premature. The pain was back shortly – right before the World Indoors, and it affected his result. Dmitry could only clear 5.50 in the final to get ninth place. “I had so much pain that the only thing I thought about during the approach was how to place my feet not to feel the pain. It probably was a mistake to go to Istanbul at all. I think my injury is chronic, you can’t fully get rid of it, you can just take some time and not go too hard on yourself when recovery is needed. But don’t worry, I’ve been keeping myself in shape and ready for competition,” Dmitry said.
The London Olympics have been the main focus for Starodubtsev for a long time now. “To prepare for the Olympics properly you have to be focused during the whole 4-year cycle. Good scheduling and planning, regimen, healthy diet, no injuries – these are the components of success,” Dmitry said. But it apparently doesn’t mean that Starodubtsev doesn’t have a life outside sports. He enjoys studying in the Chelyabinsk Pedagogical University, reading, listening to music and going to the cinema. “Unfortunately, all movie premieres are on Thursdays, and we always have technical sessions this day. Sometimes I can’t find enough energy to go to the cinema after these workouts,” Dmitry smiled.
Starodubtsev is also keen on DJ-ing. “I’m still learning it, trying to write my own music. I wouldn’t call it a hobby, more of a nice pastime with your favourite music and the people who like your musical choice,” Dmitry explained. He admits that he is not as serious about it as his team mate, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, but this hobby can be helpful if he gets to fulfill his dream. Dmitry and his coach Shalonnikov want to organise the pole vault competition on the main square of his city. “Some European cities have this kind of events. It is held in the evening. There is music, lights, townspeople gather around to watch. Our sport is very spectacular itself, so I have no doubts that it would be entertaining and would promote athletics,” Dmitry explained.
But the headphones and the audio-mixer are put on hold as Starodubtsev recently made a first big step to make his Olympic dream a reality. Dmitry placed second at the National Trials, in Cheboksary, clearing 5.72. Before the Trials he had competed outdoors only once – at the Moscow Challenge – and quit the competition after just two attempts due to muscle cramps. “It was just a bad day, I was feeling good and ready all the way. I just couldn’t run risks having that nagging injury. And that’s why I didn’t go to Helsinki as well,” Dmitry explained. In Cheboksary he looked fit and confident, smiling on the runway during the battle with Lukyanenko and Sergey Kucheryanu. “I don’t follow the competition when I’m in the sector. That’s what I have the coach on the stands for. I just focus on my own jumps,” Dmitry explained.
Dmitry doesn’t follow his international rivals’ pre-Olympics performances either. “Olympics are unpredictable anyway, so the most important thing is to be focused on your execution. Me and my coach, we’ll have a plan for the competition, which height will be the starting one, which poles do I use for different heights and so on. It’s really crucial,” Dmitry explained. And the most banal question ever about Olympic competition plans gets from Starodubtsev the most right answer: “I would be a very bad athlete if I wasn’t aiming for the Olympic gold!”
5.75 (2008)/5.90i (2011)
2003: 5.10; 2004: 5.50; 2005: 5.50; 2006: 5.61 (5.65i); 2007: 5.70; 2008: 5.75; 2009: 5.70; 2010:5.65 (5.70i); 2011: 5.72 (5.90i); 2012: 5.72 (5.80i)
2003 2nd World Youth Championships (Sherbrooke) 5.10
2004 1st World Junior Championships (Grosseto) 5.50
2005 1st European Junior Championships (Kaunas) 5.50
2005 7th World Universiade (Izmir) 5.50
2006 9th IAAF World Cup (Athens) 5.20
2007 6th European Indoor Championships (Birmingham) 5.41 (5.65q)
2007 4th European U23 Championships (Debrecen) 5.60
2007 3rd World Universiade (Bangkok) 5.50
2008 5th Olympic Games (Beijing) 5.70
2010 6th World Indoor Championships (Doha 5.45
2011 12th World Championships (Daegu) 5.65
2012 9th World Indoor Championships (Istanbul) 5.50
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2011-2012