Updated 19 July 2008
Lyudmyla BLONSKA, Ukraine (Heptathlon, Long Jump)
Born: 9 November 1977, Simferopol (Crimea)
Lives: Brovary (Kiev Region)
1.72m / 65kg
Coach: Serhiy Blonskyy (husband)
Lyudmyla Blonska’s first sport was rhythmic gymnastics, from 1982 until 1987 with a half-year break. She was a very artistic girl but had a boyish character. That is why, at the age of 11, she decided to go to basketball but she changed her focus to judo and cycle racing one year later.
In 1991, when Blonska (née Shevchuk) was in her 8th school year, Simferopol’s coach, Svitlana Selitska, took her into her new athletics group. Selitska, a former all-round athlete, trained pupils to develop a range of abilities. In 1993, Blonska attempted her first Heptathlon competition in the Ukrainian Youth Championships, in Odessa. “I don’t remember my results, but I remember how I cried before last 800m event,” she recalled. “I did not want to run so long a distance. But, after finishing, I moved from 6th to 2nd place and fell in love with Heptathlon!”
In June 1995, after finishing school, as member of the Ukrainian youth team, Blonska moved to Kiev and started to train under Tetyana Alexandrova. They decided to delay her entrance into institute education for one year, instead of following the normal practice of entering an institute in the same summer as leaving school, to allow her maximum attention to sport. After five months of their team work, Blonska received an invitation to become a student of the High Sports College in Kharkiv.
However, Blonska’s new trainer went to work in another town and the young athlete had to coach herself for one and half years. “These were very difficult times in my life,” she said. “I had no home and money to rent apartments. That is why I worked every night in markets and in the daytime I studied and went to the stadium. I slept for a few hours mainly in public transport on the road to work or training.”
In 1997, when Blonska was a student at Kharkiv Institute of Sports and Physical Culture, Tetyana Khlopotnova – mother and coach of international class long jumper Olena Khlopotnova – became her coach, teacher, friend and psychologist. Their mutual understanding, combined with hard work and Blonska’s persistence, finally produced results.
In 1998, Blonska achieved 3rd place in the national championships with 5554 points and, in 1999, improved her PB to 5765. As her results improved, especially in Long Jump (6.46) and High Jump (1.89), she seemed to be heading towards qualification for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
But Blonska made an unexpected decision. In the summer of 2000, after her successful graduation of the Kharkov Institute with the diploma of trainer and teacher of physical culture, she moved to Brovary (near Kiev) to be with her boyfriend – international class all-round athlete Serhiy Blonskyy - and decided to become a mother.
On 15 May 2001, Blonska gave birth to a daughter, Irina. Exactly one year later, on 15 May 2002, she won the National Championship with a PB 6039 under the coaching of Myhaylo Medvid. Furthermore, she attained the selection standard for the European Championships in Munich. Being the first big competition of her career, Blonska was nervous among the star names.
“In Munich I felt like a small insect in the big anthill,” she recollects. “I was so worried that I did not establish (use) starting blocks. I was afraid of doing something incorrectly and looking ridiculous in the eyes of my competitors.” She finished 13th with 5875 points.
Blonska began the 2003 season with two PBs - 6418 points in Arles and 6425 at the European Cup in Bressanone, Italy. But her results were annulled as she served a two-year ban after testing positive for steroids. “I wanted to appeal against the IAAF’s decision but I hadn’t money,” she said. ‘I made an examination of all high-vitamin preparations which I had used in the previous half-year and the tests were negative. The forbidden substances could not be found. I decided to forget everything as a bad dream and to give birth to my second child.”
On 23 June 2004, Blonska gave birth to a son, Alexander, and resumed training within a month. Her husband was forced to give up his sporting career because of heavy family financial needs and to work at three jobs simultaneously. Then, on domestic advice, they decided that Sergey, having considerable experience of multi events athletes, would become her coach.
Training had to fit the feeding and sleeping patterns of her son and, for a whole year, they came to the stadium with a carriage, vials and children’s food. Sergey trained with the infant on hand. Lyudmila was constantly distracted by the crying and whims of her child. But, on 25 July 2005, the day after her suspension ended, Blonska long jumped 6.76, meeting the A standard for the World Championships in Helsinki. However, the Ukrainian team had already been chosen.
That was why Blonska went to the World Student Games, in Izmir, Turkey, winning with 6297 points. There, during warm-up, a javelin thrown by a Finnish athlete pierced Blonska’s foot. Doctors wanted her to withdraw but she froze a leg, bandaged her wound, and continued. "After disqualification (suspension) I had to prove that, for the place in the Ukrainian national team, I will fight to the last,” she said. Two weeks later Blonska improved her PB to 6378 to finish 7th in the 2005 IAAF Top List.
Blonska was not keyed-up for the 2006 World Indoor Championships in Moscow as she felt less suited to Pentathlon than Heptathlon. She prepared more with the summer in mind but, after three PBs (60m Hurdles – 8.29; Long Jump – 6.50; Shot – 13.43) she realised that the indoor title would be within her grasp. And, with a personal best score of 4685, she claimed the top step of the Moscow podium.
At the beginning of the 2006 summer season, Blonska improved her Heptathlon PB to 6448 at the annual combined events meeting in Götzis, Austria, but she was beaten by Carolina Klüft and suffered injury. Because of pain in the back of her thigh she was unable to perform at her best at the European Championships in Göteborg, Sweden, occupying 5th place (6357). All through the autumn 2006 and winter 2007 Blonska healed her injury and, on 27 May 2007, at the first her season’s competition in Götzis, she improved her PB to 6626, but again lost to Klüft.
On August 5-6 2007, at the ‘Olimpiyskyy’ National Sport complex’s Cup in Kiev, with personal bests in the 100m Hurdles (13.13), 200m (23.80) and Shot (14.77) Blonska set a national record of 6733. “I was satisfied and scared simultaneously,” she said. “There were 20 days until the World Championships in Osaka, so I was afraid that I would not able to maintain my best shape for so long.”
Osaka began well for Blonska. She recorded 13.25 in the 100m Hurdles and set a PB in the High Jump (1.92). But, after the morning session, she felt indisposition. Dizziness and strong nausea began two hours later. The doctor’s diagnosis was heat exhaustion. During the first day’s evening session, Blonska was so weak that she could hardly hold the shot. “The stadium was swimming before my eyes and I could not concentrate,” she recalled. “When the result of my first attempt (14.44) was declared I was very surprised. Then I felt so giddy at the 200m start that I had to make a false start to bring myself round. 24.09 was a very good result for my condition.”
After the first day of competition, Blonska needed to be carried from the stadium by her husband and team coach. She was so bad that she could not sleep and she said “goodbye” to a medal in her mind. “I have fallen asleep only in the morning and when I woke up I was still very weak,” Blonska said. “But, minute by minute, I felt better and better. In my first attempt in the Long Jump the judge didn’t tell me that two girls before me on the start list had declined to jump because of injuries and I almost missed my first jump. This incident angered me very much and helped to establish a new PB of 6.88m”. After a 47.77 javelin throw she was sure that she would win silver and a 2:16.68 800m took her to 6832 for her second national record of the year and second place behind Klüft.
At Talence’s Decastar meeting on 22-23 September 2007 two of Blonska’s dreams became reality. Before the last event she was so far ahead of her rivals that she could afford to stop near the finish line and cross it walking. And then, as the competition winner, she entered to the stadium in a cabriolet (automobile) with her children.
“My children are the most important thing in my life,” Blonska said. “I take them on my training camps and to different events because I feel better and unworried if they stay near me. They never get under my feet. They understand my work and are proud of their mother. But I cannot take my children to Beijing, which is why I put in my laptop all their pictures and video. I don’t know how I’ll stay without them so long. It is more difficult than going through China’s acclimatisation and Olympic events.”
Heptathlon: 6832 (2007)
Pentathlon: 4771 (2007)
Personal bests in Heptathlon events: 200m: 23.80 (2007); 800m: 2.12,18 (2007); 100m Hurdles 13.13 (2007); High Jump: 1.92 (2007); Long Jump: 6.88 (2007), Shot 14.77 (2007); Javelin 51.31 (2007)
Heptathlon/Long Jump: 1997: 4809/5.38; 1998: 5554/5.91; 1999: 5765/6.46; 2000: 5865/ 5.96; 2001: -/-; 2002: 6039/6.35; 2003: 6316/6.30; 2004: -/-; 2005: 6378/6.76; 2006: 6448/6.53; 2007: 6832/6.88
2005 1st World Student Games (Heptathlon)
2006 1st World Indoor Championships (Pentathlon)
2006 5th European Championships (Heptathlon)
2007 2nd World Championships (Heptathlon)
2008 8th World Indoor Championships (Pentathlon)
Prepared by Liudmyla Iakusheva for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.