Sergey BAKULIN, Russia (20km/50km Race Walk)
Born: 13 November 1986, Insar, Mordovia
Coach: Viktor Chegin
Born in the same town, Insar as the 2009 50km World champion, Sergey Kirdyapkin, Bakulin is still trying to follow Kirdyapkin’s footsteps. They both started race walk under the same coach – Alexey Naumkin, although naturally Bakulin joined the group much later. Up to about 13 years of age (8th class in school) Sergey had been competing in running events – a natural career start for many race walkers.
“I specialised in the distances from 1500 to 5000m,” Bakulin recalls. “I think it’s just some basic training that will later pay off in any other athletics event you’ll choose.”
In his 8th year in school, Bakulin went to a regional running competition. There he was noticed by one of the legendary coach Viktor Chegin’s assistants and was invited to join the group. But naturally for the Mordovian system, it was not Chegin who taught the young boy the basic principles of race walking.
“Chegin is working only with the best of the best”, Bakulin explains. “When I moved to Saransk, I was first training with Viktor Parvatkin, then several months with the family couple of Konstantin and Vera Nacharkin, and only then moved to Chegin. It was in 2004, when I was a junior and candidate for the Master of Sport, according to the Russian system.”
Curiously, Bakulin did not have much success in the junior category. His only victory was in 2005 at the Russian Championships in Izhevsk. Before that he never made it to the podium. “I was very stable, but lacked brilliant races”, Bakulin explains. “After Adler, I was 6th at the World Race Walking Cup in Spain and qualified to my first European Championships in Göteborg. This made me believe that I was still progressing.”
In Göteborg Bakulin finished 5th – quite promising for a 20-year-old athlete. In 2007 he did not qualify for the World Championships in Osaka, but was third at the U23 European Championships in Debrecen. The 2008 season was even more disappointing – disqualification at the World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary meant Bakulin would not go to the Olympic Games, in Beijing. With extremely strong Valery Borchin, Stanislav Morozov and experienced Ilya Markov on the team, the home World Race Walking Cup was Bakulin’s only chance to qualify.
“With my coach, we have been working a lot on my technique after 2008”, Sergey sighs. “If you get disqualified, and for me that was not the first time in my career, you should pay special attention to technical aspects. I am watching lots of videos even now and try to copy the best walkers. For me the etalon is Sergey Kirdyapkin. Not because we are from the same town, but because I really believe his technique is almost ideal.”
The following year, 2009, Bakulin first tried to move to the longer distance. He finished 1st at 35km on the national winter Championships and qualified for the European Cup, in Metz. Fourth in France and second on 50km at the national trials was again very good for the beginning, but not enough to qualify for the 2009 World Championships, in Berlin. It would be definitely more than enough in any other team in the world, but not in Russia.
Bakulin’s reasons for moving to 50km are obvious. The competition on the longer distance is visibly lower than on 20km, where Russia has the Olympic and World champion, Valery Borchin. Sergey himself does not deny this: “Yes, I thought we have more than enough people on 20km, and it was so hard to make the team. Maybe on the longer distance I would have better chances. Although to be honest, I am not that happy to change my specialisation. I feel I still have not realised my potential on 20km.”
On the World Race Walking Cup 2010, in Mexico, Bakulin still decided to walk 20km. “It’s going to be too hot for 50km, and also high altitude”, Sergey explains. “It would be really dangerous for my health to walk 50km there. I don’t know how much time I would need to recover after this… And I plan to do the best I can next year, which will be pre-Olympic. So I would not risk everything in Mexico.”
In absence of the reigning World and Olympic champion, Bakulin, maybe for the first time in his career, is going to be Russia’s main hope. Moreover, if he is the only Russian in the top-6 (which is a possibility considering the level of the team in Mexico), this will mean automatic qualification to the European Championships in Barcelona. “Of course I know I need to be in the top 6, and maybe even 8, and the best Russian to qualify to Barcelona”, Bakulin says. “But my personal goal for Mexico is to finish in the top 5. Why specifically 5? I don’t know, I just like this figure!”
10km Race Walk: 39:03 (2006)
20km Race Walk: 1:18:18 (2008)
50km Race Walk: 3:52:38 (2009)
10km/20km/50km: 2006: 39:03/1:19:54/-; 2007: -/1:19:14/-; 2008: -/1:18:18/-; 2009: -/1:20:52/3:52:38.
2005 1st Russian Championships (Izhevsk, 10,000m) 41:30.5
2006 4th (2U23) Russian Winter Championships (Adler, 20km) 1:19:54
2006 6th World Race Walking Cup (La Coruña, 20km) 1:20:10
2006 5th European Championships (Göteborg, 20km) 1:20:50
2007 3rd (2U23) Russian Championships (Cheboksary, 20km) 1:19:14
2007 3rd European U23 Championships (Debrecen, 20km) 1:23:33
2008 2nd (2U23) Russian Winter Championships (Adler, 20km) 1:18:18
2008 DQ World Cup (Cheboksary, 20km)
2009 1st Russian Winter Championships (Adler, 35km) 2:24:25
2009 4th European Cup (Metz, 50km) 3:52:38
2009 2nd Russian Championships (Cheboksary, 50km) 3:54:37
2009 1st Universiade (Belgrad, 20km) 1:20:52
2010 1st Russian Winter Championships (Adler, 35km) 2:27:42
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2010.