Updated 16 July 2012
Nataliya DOBRYNSKA, Ukraine (Heptathlon)
Born 29 May 1982 in Vinnytsya
Coach: Myhaylo Medved
Sports club “Kolos”
It looks like Nataliya Dobrynska’s destiny was decided at birth. Nataliya was born into a sports family. Her mother, Lyubov Dobrynska, as a student played volleyball and handball, competed in different athletics events, and liked Shot Put best of all. Her father, Volodymyr Dobrynskyy, was a cross country runner, skier, shooter and diver. Little Nataliya, together with her elder sister Viktoriya (international class heptathlete now) took part in different competitions “Mother, father and I are a sports family,” Nataliya said. The best sports family in the city of Vinnytsya.
Dobrynska came to athletics at the age of eight and started to train in the same group as her older sister, coached by Victor Postemskyy. “From my first training I got excited and carried away with athletics,” Dobrynska recalls. “Every weekend our coach organised a little competition inside our group. I was so ambitious that I strived for victory in spite of fact that all the girls in my group were older than me by 3-5 years. From one competition to another I improved my results and tried to catch up with the group’s leaders.”
As a result, Dobrynska achieved the standard of Candidate to Sports Master (according to Ukrainian classification) in winter Pentathlon (results of this level are available for 15-16 years old girls).
In May 1999, Dobrynska won the Heptathlon at the National Youth Championship, in Odessa, with 5226 points, and was included in the Ukraine team for the World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. She was selected for the Shot Put because she was ranked third on the World Youth list. But Dobrynska messed up her first international event, recording only 12.41m, and did not qualify for the Final. That summer she became a student at the teachers' training institute in Vinnytsya.
One year later Dobrynska won the National Junior Championships with a PB 5322, but the Ukrainian team went to the World Junior Championships, in Kingston, without her. In 2001 and 2002 she won the Ukrainian University Games and improved her PB to 5936. “I was sure I was ready to get 6000 points to become an international,” Nataliya says. “But I had a lot of disappointments during 2003, getting one injury after another.” She was unable to improve on her PB and she set about thinking of a change in coach.
In the autumn of 2003, Dobrynska moved to Brovary (near Kiev) and joined Myhaylo Medved’s group. It was the most difficult period of her life. “I had no livelihood,” she recalled. “I had some money to rent a very, very little room in poor apartments where one family of 8 people was located. Every morning I woke up at 6-7 o'clock because of intolerable noise and abuse through the wall. Chaos stayed in the flat until midnight. But I adapted myself to these conditions very quickly.
“I went out from my room early in the morning and came back late in the evening. I had two trainings daily and just walked around town between them. I was keen on yoga and this ardour helped me to remain calm and to recover my balance. After morning meditation I felt refreshed and in a good mood. After the evening one I settled down and dropped off to sleep very quickly.”
After a half-year training period under the direction of Medved, Dobrynska made great progress. In March 2004 she set a new National Record in Pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest. In Hungary’s capital she finished second with 4727 points, behind Portugal’s Naide Gomes by just 32 points. In May, Dobrynska exceeded 6000 points for the first time and, two weeks later, she finished third with 6387 points at the international event in Götzis. But her training before the Athens Olympics was too intensive and the load too big for optimum shape.
“In Athens I felt tired on the track,” Dobrynska states. “My body was strong and powerful but I moved sluggishly. But I was happy to be one of Olympic competitors and take a place in our national team. At least I was happy with my 8th place but I was upset by my result – 6255 points.”
At the beginning of 2005 Dobrynska moved to the coaching group of Petro Kostenko (ex-coach of Medved). With him she achieved 3rd place at the European Indoor Championships, in Madrid, and finished 9th at the World Championships, in Helsinki. But Kostenko took an invitation to work abroad. For a short period, Dobrynska had to coach herself. Dmytro Polyakov became her trainer from the beginning of 2007 and, in March, she set new National Record for Pentathlon (4739) as she finished 5th at the European Indoor Championships, in Birmingham.
“When we met at the house of my parents in Vinnytsya, Dima (short name from Dmytro) looked at my childhood letters of commendation from different competitions and just asked me: “Tell me, who said first that speed isn’t your trump card?” In fact, I had very good results in sprint events at the beginning of my career. So, after this visit to Vinnytsya, we changed our main strategy of preparation and started to improve my speed.”
Dobrynska had problems with her feet at that time, so they had to be very careful in their new experiments. “We could be in time to make qualitative preparation for the World Championships, in Osaka, but unfortunately we were compelled to confirm my shape for our team management at Ukrainian Cup in Kiev at the beginning of August,” Dobrynska said. “After that competition, my feet looked like two violet pillows.” But, in spite of this, Dobrynska completed her Heptathlon in Osaka in 8th place (6327 points).
On 16 February 2008, Dobrynska set a PB (4758) in Pentathlon at an international meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, but was beaten by Lyudmyla Blonska, who finished first with new Ukraine National Record (4771 points). Two weeks later Dobrynska took 4th place at the World Indoor Championships, in Valencia, with 4742 points.
“My first meeting of the summer Olympic season was in Götzis,” Dobrynska says. “I competed with bronchitis and a high temperature. I could score just 6268 points and place 9th, but I think it was a very important meeting and a turning point for me. In Götzis every year they produce a handbook, and the organisers of this Austrian event had counted what result each heptathlete could achieve with a PB in all seven events. My score was 6700. From this moment, I pondered lots of things. What am I doing wrong? I had a new view in mental preparation for competition.”
Dobrynska was in a good situation while all the Ukrainian and world sports media were focused on Blonska. She was able to make her Olympic preparation quietly. At the “Bird’s Nest” she set 5 personal bests: 100m hurdles (13.44); Shot Put (17.18, World and Olympic best for Heptathlon); 200m (24.39); Long Jump (6.63); Javelin Throw (48.60). Finally Dobrynska improved her PB in Heptathlon by 346 points to 6733.
“My Olympic gold medal was unexpected by most specialists and athletics fans, but not by me,” Dobrynska laughs. “I looked forward to fighting for one of the medal places before I arrived in Beijing. My thoughts were directed towards working professionally and easily, with belief in my heart and with faith in myself. I had a little pain in my foot but, during competition, I forgot all about it.”
Dobrynska likes all events of Heptathlon, but her favourite is the Shot Put. “I really like all disciplines, they are all are my favourites,” she confirms. “Well, maybe Shot Put I like much more than others. My mother says this love I took from her. Seriously, I understand this field event technically and, moreover, I’m feeling the Shot. Before the Olympics I took a lot of technical consultation from Alexandr Bagach (bronze medallist in Shot Put, Atlanta Olympics 1996) and the effect was obvious.”
Dobrynska’s next aims were to improve her result in Long Jump and Javelin Throw. She has a few unique performances in some athletics tests. For example, Dobrynska’s best result in standing Long Jump is 3.05m. Her performance in the snatch by right hand is 48kg. “Oh, I have very many ways to improve my results in Heptathlon,” she said. “So my next goal is a National record and certainly the World Record as well.”
After Beijing, Dobrynska was named “Sportsperson of the Year” in Ukraine and became Female Athlete of the year. The Ukrainian president awarded her with the “Order of Merit before the Homeland” of 3rd grade. The sports club "Kolos,” which she has been representing for the last 18 years, presented her with a black Jaguar XS.
“Also I've been given a new one-bedroom flat in Kiev,” she said. “Maybe it is not that big, but it is in the capital and that makes me happy.” Dobrynska continued to count her gifts after the Olympics. “I now live a little bit outside of the city, and it's nice to have a place where I can stay in Kiev. Finally, one of the Ukrainian businessmen before the Olympics promised, that if any of our athletes won a gold medal in Beijing, he would buy him or her a country house. Who could have imagined that I was going to win! Now I will have to buy a piece of land, and he will build a house on it. Actually, you don't even have to build it, the house is ready. It is transported from Germany in small pieces and then it takes a few days to make it set on my piece of land.”
All these things were nice presents for Dobrynska for her wedding. At the beginning of October 2008, Nataliya married her coach Dmytro Polyakov.
Dobrynska decided to compete after the Olympic winter season and prepare for the European Indoor Championships, in Torino, but a severe infection producing a lot of catarrh forced her to miss the event. She won both her Heptathlons of 2009, prior to the Berlin World Championships, in Götzis and Kladno, but her performances were far from her Beijing results.
“It is not easy to start from the beginning after an Olympic gold medal,” Dobrynska says. “To be honest, I felt too relaxed in Götzis and Kladno, especially during the first days of the competitions. So I made very many mistakes and then had to catch up. I have been feeling a big responsibility. I don’t want anyone to think that I became Olympic champion by chance. I have big pressure, not from anybody, but mostly from myself. I was in great physical shape before the Berlin World Championships but couldn’t show it at all in Berlin.”
Dobrynska finished 4th at the World Championships in the Heptathlon. She collected 6444 points only and didn’t set even one PB. The most terrible event for her was the Javelin, where she threw only 43.29m. She was a bit disappointed in her Heptathlon. A few days later she didn’t make it through qualification in Long Jump field, leaping 6.38.
“I have been thinking and thinking after the Champs why this happened to me,” Dobrynska tried to analyse. “For every athlete there are good days and bad days. The two days of the Heptathlon competition in Berlin were definitely bad for me. But I don’t want to explain it just like ‘bad luck’. Now I’ve come to understand the sport does not forgive anything. If you ease your training even a little bit, if you maybe just for a moment start to think about something else apart from sports, be sure your bad results are coming.”
After coming back home, Dobrynska changed her training sessions – from track to the dance floor – having given her agreement to the organisers of the programme ‘Dancing for you’, on national TV, to a be participant of the show. But she still had to compete at one meeting more, in Talence. Newly crowned World champion Jessica Ennis didn’t participate in France, so Nataliya won easily and scored more points than in Berlin.
“This final victory with 6485 points really helped to feel self-satisfaction and look to the future with a smile.” – Dobrynska sums up. - I had two good days, with season bests in the Shot Put (16.48m) and High Jump (1.86m), and also a very good result 2:13.07 in the 800m. I missed my PB by just a few hundredths. It was a very nice surprise that I was still capable of fast times, it’s fantastic! I was second before the 800m, but losing only 0.4 to Yosypenko, so that was not critical. But I still tried to run my maximum speed, because you never know – maybe someone from behind could have accelerated. I gave all I had, produced a fast time and ended my season with a victory… Well, I’ve got some reasons to be proud of myself especially as I hadn’t prepared for this last meeting of the year because of participation in the new ‘Dancing for you’ TV project.”
Dobrynska came to the project to learn but not to win. However, she passed through 5 rounds and felt really tired. Her last Hip-Hop dance was great, but the judges didn’t think so. Nataliya retired from the project without any feelings of regret. She definitely needed a little rest before starting preparation for the new winter season, but felt she had gained a lot of new emotions and joy. And after her participation in the dancing project, Nataliya became much more sure that athletics is the most fair and interesting kind of sports in the world.
Dobrynska spent December 2009 in a training camp in Portugal and after coming back home she learned that she had been named the first Miss Sport of Ukraine. The victory ceremony was broadcast live and at the end she received a huge crown. It was very special for Dobrynska, being on a popular TV show, in an evening dress and with the crown. “It really gave me inspiration for further training,” Nataliya said after the ceremony.
The main goal of the winter season 2010 for Dobrynska was certainly the World Indoor Championships in Doha. She opened her season with a victory at the National Indoor Championships, in Sumy, scoring a new national record in Pentathlon (4778 points) and setting one PB, in 60m Hurdles (8.33).
Three weeks before the World Indoor Championships, she had a lot of work on technical details in the Shot Put, Long and High Jumps. Before competition in Doha, Nataliya was in such great shape that she was ready not only to improve her PB, but also to achieve the World record in Pentathlon. But a series of circumstances changed her plans radically. After a 23-hour flight to Doha (with long connection times), she felt too heavy. 40 degrees difference in temperature between Ukraine and Qatar didn’t assist in quick recovering.
“I did everything I could in that situation," Dobrynska said after her second place in Doha. “It was too difficult to fight with Jessica Ennis and my feelings at the same time. I tried to concentrate my attention on the technical elements and away from my physical condition. Two Season Bests in High Jump (1.84) and Shot Put (16.43) I have reached with great difficulty. And my PB in 800m – 1:14.85 – looked like a miracle. In spite of these facts, I was so glad to set new PB and National Record (4851) once more during the winter season.”
After Doha, Nataliya began her preparation for the summer season without delay. But the injury in her thigh forced her to take a long pause. She went to her favourite competition, in Götzis, just to try to go through all seven events of the Heptathlon. Dobrynska devoted the summer of 2010 to improving her speed. “Maybe it was my worst shape in recent years,” Nataliya recalls, “but we had really nice battle against each other at European Championships in Barcelona. I could not even assume, with what result I could finish this or that event of Heptathlon, but I felt an inconceivable excitement in the fight with Jessica Ennis. In the heat of the moment I could improve my PB in 200m (24.23) and 800m (2:12.06) and finished another five events with Season Bests.”
As a result of that beautiful and interesting fight, Dobrynska scored her PB in Heptathlon (6778) and became silver medallist at the European Championships in Barcelona. After finishing the 2010 season, Nataliya made the decision to take a long break in training and didn’t compete at all during winter 2010-2011. She felt that she needed much more rest.
“I have three very important seasons ahead,” Dobrynska explained at the beginning of summer 2011. “I need to rest more and miss athletics. I know that I risk losing competitive experience, but I felt too tired. I started my preparation for the World Championships in Daegu at the training camp in Portugal on March 2011 only. I was not in a hurry to get good shape for my first summer competition, in Götzis, but I was really upset when I scored 6332 points in May. After such a performance, we decided to withdraw from all the summer events except the World Championships in Daegu.”
In spite of a little injury of the take-off leg’s knee, Dobrynska was in incredible physical shape before Daegu. In Korea, she started with a new PB in 100m Hurdles and was sure that she could set a new PB in Heptathlon. Before the Shot Put event, she made a little technical warm-up, putting the shot over 18m. But at the competition field she achieved 16.14m only. “I was too disappointed with such low result,” Natalia said. “After Shot Put I couldn’t find my fighting spirit. My fifth place at World Championships in Daegu is a result of my psychological problems only. The bright evidence of my greatest shape became my performance in Talence three weeks later, where I scored 6537 points – only 2 points less than in Daegu. But we didn’t make any special preparation for that last season’s event.”
Relying on her previous experience, Dobrynska decided to prepare for the World Indoor Championships 2012 in Istanbul. “If I miss the winter season it so difficult for me to start my summer competitions. That is why I decided to compete in Istanbul.”
At the National Indoor Championships, in Sumy, Dobrynska took an easy victory with the new National record in Pentathlon, with 4480 points. “I knew I have very big potential. In Sumy I didn’t set any PB in any Pentathlon event. But I felt I was ready to do every discipline better than ever. Moreover, I like to compete in Pentathlon. I never feel tired after one-day competitions. Usually I pass all five events in one breath. In Istanbul we had very strong company. As a rule in such close fights, very high results could be born. Every one of us was ready to set not only indoor PB, but World Record as well. I was so happy that I became that happy person”.
At the World Indoor Championships 2012, Dobrynska did not have as good a start in Pentathlon as she expected, but at least she recovered her spirit and won in Istanbul with new World Indoor record (5013), becoming the first woman to score more than 5000 points in Indoor Pentathlon.
“Nothing was changed cardinally in my training over winter 2012,” Dobrynska said. “We had been preparing for World Indoor Championships, but did not forget about summer. We considered last winter like the foundation for Olympic preparation. I felt strong physically, but first of all I had the biggest mental motivation to win in Istanbul and to post a very high result. My coach was mortally ill. We knew that these were last months of his life and I knew that World Indoor Championships would be my last event under his directions, in spite of the fact that I have been receiving them by phone and through SMS. I wanted very much to give him minutes of real happiness. First of all I wanted to make his dream a reality. Dima (short from Dmytro) was sure for the last four years that I can set new World Record in Pentathlon. But in Istanbul some things went wrong and I was little bit disappointed after Shot Put. I remember that I thought: “If I’ll not win today I’ll never forgive myself for this.” I was concentrated in Long Jump as much as possible and before 800m I got last instructions from Dima – very shot but the most suitable in that situation. He said: “This is your chance. You can do it. Just don’t spare yourself.” And I did it! Of course, I dedicated my win and World record in Pentathlon to Dima, but I could not say that because he didn’t want to spread information about his illness all over the world. When I came back home Dima told me: “I’m proud of you and I’m feeling happy.” And his words meant to me much more than Istanbul’s gold and World record. Dima was so sorry that he’ll not able to go with me to London…”
Nataliya was at home near her husband and coach during the last weeks of his life. With a heavy heart she was seeing all his pangs and excruciation. On 25 March 2012, Dmytro Polyakov passed away…
At that difficult time, Dobrynska lost about 10kg in a couple of weeks. She had neither mental nor physical power to continue her training. Only at the end of April Nataliya began her summer Olympic preparation. While in the training camp she received the news that NOC of Ukraine had awarded her a title, “Pride of the country”.
In May Dobrynska came back to one of her previous coaches, Myhailo Medved. Before London Olympics she took part only in one traditional competition, in Götzis. Being under the high physical loading she didn’t expect high result there and was fully satisfied with her 9th place and low result (6311 points) in Austria.
“The main event of this summer is Olympic Games and I'm completely focusing to show my best shape in London. Certainly, I’m proud of the Olympic champion title from Beijing. For me it’ll be matter of honour to defend this title. I didn’t want to be an ordinary participant at Beijing Olympics four years ago, so why would I refuse from the medal battle in London? Sometimes I catch myself thinking about big responsibility I’ll have in London, but I endeavour to drive such kinds of thoughts away and stay free from any pressure. I would like to compete in London easily, with big pleasure notwithstanding my previous wins or defeats.”
Dobrynska has many hobbies. She likes music and drawing. If she has a romantic mood and inspiration she writes poetry (her grandfather was a writer) and she has experience as a written sports journalist. In 2009, Dobrynska began to play the mouth organ and she continues doing yoga.
Heptathlon/Pentathlon (i): 6778/5013 (WR)
Heptathlon/Pentathlon: 1999: 5226/-; 2000: 5322/3975; 2001: 5742/4074; 2002: 5936/-; 2003: 5877/4384; 2004: 6387/4727; 2005: 6299/4667; 2006: 6356/-; 2007: 6327/4739; 2008: 6733/4758; 2009: 6558/-; 2010: 6778/4851; 2011: 6539/-; 2012: 6311/5013
1999: q World Youth Championships (Shot Put)
2001 10th European Junior Championships
2002 5th European Cup
2003 5th European U23 Championships
2004 2nd World Indoor Championships
2004 8th Olympic Games
2005 3rd European Indoor Championships
2005 9th World Championships
2006 6th European Championships
2007 5th European Indoor Championships
2007 8th World Championships
2008 4th World Indoor Championships
2008 1st Olympic Games
2009 4th World Championships
2010 2nd World Indoor Championships
2010 2nd European Championships
2011 5th World Championships
2012 1st World Indoor Championships
Prepared by Liudmyla Iakusheva for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2009-2012.