Created 27 July 2012
Sergey MORGUNOV, Russia (Long Jump)
Born 9 February 1993, Shakhty (Rostov oblast)
1.77m / 71.5kg
Coach: Nikolay Mishchenko
It’s not a typical situation when international sports writers bombard the All-Russia Athletic Federation with requests about National Junior Championships judge’s score sheets. But it did happen on 21 June 2012, the day after Sergey Morgunov jumped a World junior record in Cheboksary. Not that Morgunov was new to being at the top of world junior rankings, but this improvement by 25cm since the 2011 European Junior Championships was huge, and he managed to beat the longest standing world junior record of 8.34 set by Randy Williams (USA) in 1972. Unfortunately Morgunov’s impressive attempt will remain only in judges’ and spectators’ memory, as there was no TV-coverage of the meet, but it was definitely not the last impressive jump of this prodigy.
Sergey Morgunov was born in a southern town with the most Olympic champions per capita in Russia – Shakhty. It is the native town of the 2008 Olympic high jump champion Andrey Silnov. “My city is famous indeed, it inspires me, makes me keep going and strive for the best. Of course I’m familiar with Silnov, we see each other at the competitions and training camps and he is an inspiration as well. Growing up I was also inspired by another famous fellow-townsman – multiple Olympic and world champion in weightlifting Vasiliy Alekseev,” Sergey said.
Morgunov does quite a bit of weightlifting as well, but most of his time is devoted to jumping in the sandpit under the guidance of Nikolay Mishchenko. Mishchenko is widely referred to as a simple PE teacher. “He is a school PE teacher indeed! He also trained the USSR sprint champion Viktor Grudinin, but that was long ago, now I’m his only athlete,” Sergey explained.
Morgunov works with Mishchenko since he was eight years old. “My coach saw me at one of the PE lessons and decided to check my speed and power by some sprinting and jumping tests. Apparently he was impressed as he started to pay more attention to me. But I wasn’t really into athletics at that time. I wanted to play soccer with my friends, so I came up with all kinds of excuses to miss the training sessions. But when I started to take part in the competitions and saw some results, I decided to make the most of the athletics,” Morgunov said.
Sergey started off as a sprinter, but switched to long jump in 2009. And this choice appeared to be a happy one. In 2010 Sergey won indoor and outdoor Russian Youth Championships and European Youth Olympic Trials held in Moscow. He was one of the favourites for the first Youth Olympic Games having a PB of 7.66. To equal his PB would have been enough for the silver, but Morgunov managed only 7.08 in the final to take the seventh place. “Before leaving for Singapore I got two injuries and they flared up in the final. But they don’t bother me nowadays,” Morgunov explained.
Coming to the European Junior Championships of 2011 Morgunov was unbeaten all season and had set a PB of 7.85 at the National Junior Championships. This in spite of the fact that the great part of his training was mostly done in the 15-metres long basement or on some random stairs. “Our indoor arena was closed for renovation, so we worked out in the little basement, but I wasn’t scared by those poor conditions, they only made me stronger,” Morgunov said.
With 7.85, the Russian was ranked second in Europe prior to the final round of the Championships. The battle in Tallinn was dramatic. After four jumps Morgunov with a 7.60 leap was second behind the Pole Tomasz Jaszczuk, but in the 5th attempt he set a PB of 8.10 to take the lead. Jaszczuk responded with 8.11 in his last attempt, but Morgunov managed to jump a wind-aided (+3.6 mps) 8.18 to grab the gold and to bring his coach to tears.
“In Tallinn I was really motivated and I tried to focus on every jump: on the technique, on the take-off from the board. But of course there was a bit of luck in my victory. That final once again proved that competitions are totally unpredictable. And even though I regularly look through junior season lists on the IAAF website to get the idea about my rivals’ performances, I always keep in mind that anything can happen in the competition,” Morgunov said.
In 2012 Morgunov had an eventful indoor season, adding the indoor 60m title to the successful defense of his long jump indoor title and his first one-day meeting outings. He was seventh at the “Russian Winter” meeting in Moscow and second in Bordeaux. And his results from the very beginning of the summer season were showing that Morgunov really stepped up the game. He began regularly flying over 8 meters, being the second best in Russia after the World Championships finalist Aleksandr Menkov.
But on 20 June he found himself not only the current best in Russia in all age categories, but also the World junior record holder and sharing the world leader status with Briton Greg Rutherford. “Before the Nationals I looked through some statistics and that World record mark of 8.34 for no reason just stuck in my mind. I thought: “I have to beat it.” But my main focus still was the Russian junior record of 8.16. I worked hard with this aim in mind. Luckily I avoided any injuries in the build-up, so I believed I was ready. When I saw 8.35 on the scoreboard, I was extremely happy, but I really wasn’t able to realize that I just set a world record,” Morgunov recalled.
The most exciting thing about that result was that the Russian junior champion was on the team not only for the World Junior Championships, in Barcelona, but also for the London Olympics. The All-Russia Athletic Federation granted him a wild card as taking part in the National Trials a few days before the Worlds would be too much for the young athlete.
After his success in Cheboksary, Morgunov got some praise from the best Russian coaches and athletes. Darya Klishina’s coach Olga Shemigon told the “Sport-Express” newspaper in an interview: “This youngster has extremely strong upper and lower leg muscles. You know, his personal best in standing long jump is 3.52m. And he has a natural sense of jumping technique, which makes him look like the best American athletes in action.” And this seems logical as Morgunov admits that his role model, jumping-wise, is the World record holder Mike Powell.
Even though Morgunov headed to Barcelona as a clear favourite, he admitted that he didn’t feel much pressure. But on the day of the final all the media representatives were discussing him: would he win, would he break the Championships record of 8.20, is there anything wrong with his heavily taped leg. “No, I’m not injured. I had a problem with this leg in the past, so now I wear those tapes at every meeting just in case,” smiled Morgunov after qualification. In the final he claimed the victory right away, in the first attempt, with a leap of 8.09m. None of his opponents could jump over 8 m that evening. But the Championships record was not to be. “After my first jump I realized that I was almost sure to win, so I started to take risks to improve the result, and that’s why I got four fouls in a row,” Sergey
Going to Barcelona Morgunov had some expectations not related to jumping in sand. “I’ve never been to this city before, so I did want to do some sightseeing. And there is a great amusement park with roller coasters here. I’d die for that! But I was selected the team captain, so I spent all the days at the stands watching my fellow athletes compete. And of course, I don’t have any regrets about that,” Morgunov said.
And he will not have much of a rest during the next month, as after a quick visit to Shakhty to bring home the gold from Barcelona, Morgunov heads for the last training camp before the Olympics. “Yes, it’s kind of hard to keep working while the majority of my fellow junior athletes are already sunbathing somewhere on the seaside, but the Olympics are totally worth it. It won’t be easy to keep the shape for the next weeks, but I think I can even improve. At the beginning of the summer I didn’t even think about the possibility to get a ticket to London, so I probably still don’t realize that I’m an Olympian,” Morgunov said.
As well as being a promising athlete, Morgunov is also a diligent student. His major is called “Service of transport and technology machinery and equipment.” “I love studying, it’s even more interesting when you don’t miss classes. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for an athlete,” Morgunov admitted.
And Sergey clearly has his favourite distraction – it is singing. “Vocals is an art. I love singing and when I’m in a good mood, I can sing everywhere – in the street with my friends, at home, at the training camp. When I’m at home, I sometimes go to karaoke. I’ve never taken any lessons, but it came naturally as my mom and my grandmother are teachers of music. By the way in 2011 I even won a diploma at the musical contest ‘Golden student’!” Morgunov said.
Golden student and “golden junior” Morgunov, of course, aims to be a golden Olympian one day. It will not be easy for the 19-year-old to achieve this goal in London, but watch out, every jump could be a record one!
8.35m WJR (2012)
2010: 7.66; 2011: 8.10; 2012: 8.35 WJR
2010 1st Russian Youth Indoor Championships (Penza) 7.37
2010 1st Russian Youth Olympic Trials (Cheboksary) 7.66
2010 1st European Youth Olympic Trials (Moscow) 7.44
2010 1st Russian Youth Championships (Penza) 7.40
2010 7th Youth Olympic Games (Singapore) 7.08
2011 1st Russian Junior Indoor Championships (Saransk) 7.49
2011 1st Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary) 7.85
2011 1st European Junior Championships (Tallinn) 8.18
2012 1st Russian Junior Indoor Championships (Volgograd) (60m) 6.81 (6.80sf)
2012 1st Russian Junior Indoor Championships (Volgograd) 7.94
2012 1st Russian Junior Championships (Cheboksary) 8.35
2012 1st World Junior Championships (Barcelona) 8.09
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2012