Updated 26 July 2012
Svetlana SHKOLINA, Russia (High Jump)
Born 9 March 1986, Yartsevo, Smolensk district
1.87m / 66kg
Coach: Sergey Klyugin
The first Olympic Games in the career of Svetlana Shkolina were overwhelming, but not satisfying. But in the lead-up to the London Games she is not the same athlete as she was in Beijing. She has a different coach, a brand new grand master’s personal best of 2.01 and, the last but not the least, the confidence in herself.
Shkolina was born in a small town called Yartsevo in a common family. None of her close relatives was involved in sports. “My mother works as a cook. My father is a driver. They both still live in Yartsevo. I have an elder brother as well, but he hasn’t done any sports,” Svetlana said. But she was lucky enough to start doing athletics very early. A local P.E. teacher, Konstantin Konstantinov, spotted a tall 9-year-old girl at one of the lessons and invited her to join the training group of his wife Margarita, in sports school. And this girl was Svetlana.
For the next seven years, Shkolina, along with a number of peers, was developing her jumping skills. “It was a room in the basement of a school building. It had a tiled floor covered with some rubber suitable for running. And there were mats to make a landing area. But in fact I wasn’t only high jumping at that time. I was running, long jumping, as all the kids did. I wasn’t really good at running, but had some success in long jump,” Shkolina said. At that time she didn’t consider athletics as a possible future job. “I was training because it was fun and there was actually nothing else to do after classes,” she explained.
Svetlana realised that high jumping turned out to be more than a hobby in 2003. This year was really decisive in her career – it actually gave her career a jump-start. Shkolina won the Russian Youth Championships and was included in national team for World Youths. And it was the year when she graduated from school and had to decide what to do next. Silver at the World Youth Championships told her that she should continue jumping.
“After school I decided to move to Moscow to enter the sport college of Olympic reserve. Margarita Konstantinova handed me over to Galina Filatova. I was the only athlete under her guidance. It was very unusual for me at first, but I got used to it. It was important that we got along, I tend to be capricious at times and love to argue, but Filatova always felt my mood,” Shkolina said.
The cooperation of young talent and 1976 Olympian was fruitful. In 2004 Svetlana won silver at the World Junior Championships with a PB of 1.91. Her main rival, World youth champion Iryna Kovalenko from Ukraine went over the bar at 1.93.
But just in a year Svetlana was more consistent, notching four performance at 1.90 or above in 2005, and jumping 1.91 again to claim her European junior title with Kovalenko in third place. “There was no war between me and Iryna outside of the stadium. We were good friends. I didn’t see my Worlds’ medals as defeats at all. In 2003, I was desperately happy being on the podium at my first major competition. In 2004, I was that much happy with a PB. It’s a pity that Iryna retired, anyway,” Shkolina noted.
The European scene kept being favourable for Shkolina. In 2007, she improved her PB to 1.96 and became the European U23 champion. But the real breakthrough for Shkolina came in the Olympic year. In the indoor season she cleared 1.94 or more in five of her nine outings, and brought her PB to 1.96 in a one-day meeting in Sweden.
However, in summer Svetlana was struggling to obtain good results and almost gave up all hopes to get a ticket to Beijing, especially having to deal with 2004 Olympic champion, Elena Slesarenko, world silver medalist, Anna Chicherova, and a pack of consistent rivals at the National Championships, in Kazan. “I was almost sure that I was not going to make a team. I was disappointed in advance. Maybe that’s why I stepped out on the field completely relaxed and produced some good jumps,” Shkolina explained. She was third having improved her PB to 1.98 and it was enough to enter the Olympics.
But in Beijing, Shkolina lacked what was so useful in Kazan – composure. “It was a really difficult competition. The huge arena with thousands of supporters, all the fuss and all the noise. The pressure of the responsibility to your country was also hard to handle. But the most complicated issue for me was not having my coach around. Filatova came to Beijing at her expense and she didn’t have any ticket or accreditation to enter the stadium,” Shkolina explained. Without the support of her coach Svetlana made it to the final, but could only manage 14th and second to last place. However, she gained valuable experience and desire to keep working.
The 2 metre mark is a milestone for any female high jumper. For Shkolina, the memorable clearance occurred in 2010. In the relaxed atmosphere of Eberstadt’s indoor “Jumping with music” meeting, Shkolina went over the bar at 2 metres. “That day everything just went perfect. I was fit, focused and relaxed, my coach was with me and we were just enjoying the meeting. Even though I knew I was ready to jump 2.00, after I did it I just couldn’t believe that it was me. It was definitely a special moment!”
If only that jump could be replicated when it mattered! With Chicherova giving the season a miss and Slesarenko struggling after injuries and switching coaches, Shkolina went to the Doha World Indoor Championships as one of the main medal contenders. But she ended up in fourth place with Blanka Vlasic on first with 2.00.
“I was very disappointed. Not because Blanka jumped “only” 2.00 for the win. It’s just that the fourth place is the most vexing in any sports. And I can’t say that I consider Blanka as a special rival. Or Chicherova, or anyone. I prefer to focus on my own performance. And growing up I didn’t have any role models in sports as well,” Shkolina said.
Summer 2010 season brought Shkolina yet another fourth place at the European Championships, in Barcelona. And Svetlana was even more annoyed than after Doha. It was the moment to change something, having two years until the London Olympics. In September Shkolina decided to leave Filatova and join the group of 2000 Olympic champion Sergey Klyugin.
“Now I’m training with the top guys – Ivan Ukhov and Sergey Mudrov. For the first months I wasn’t the only girl there. Sergey’s wife, Viktoriya, was working out with me. But then she got pregnant and now she helps us when Sergey is out of town. And she is one of my best friends as well. I think it’s good that I have to keep up with the guys. And it’s definitely more fun when we travel together for the meets,” Shkolina said.
Shkolina doesn’t really like to discuss neither the reasons for this move nor the changes in training. From the external point of view, the first season with Klyugin from was not extremely promising. It brought her yet another fourth place at European Indoors, in Paris.
But only Svetlana and her coach know what is going on inside. Transition years are never easy. “On one hand, nothing has changed. It’s the same high jump. On the other hand, everything is different. We have different training camps, different schedule. Anyway, it’s good to have Sergey as a coach because, as an Olympic champion, he still remembers the feelings of competing at the highest level. And he can give us the best advice in that matter,” Shkolina explained.
Making the team for the 2011 Worlds was not easy – Chicherova was a whirlwind in the sector, setting the national record of 2.07 just coming out of maternity leave. Shkolina was second with a good 1.97. In Daegu she got the same mark which brought her the 5th place.
Svetlana was leaving South Korea a bit unsatisfied with her performance, but it was the beginning of the autumn and she had to start focusing not only on her new cycle of training but also on her last year of studies. In April 2012 Svetlana successfully graduated from the Moscow State Pedagogical University with the qualification of a teacher of physical education. “Honestly, I don’t see myself as a coach yet. And I don’t feel very passionate about studies. Being an experienced athlete, you already know and feel most of the things that are taught at our faculty. Nevertheless, I was always on full-time tuition and I tried hard not to miss my classes when I was in Moscow and while at training camps - to do all the homework via Internet. And I had to pass final exams and present my thesis a couple of months earlier than my mates to have the summer free for competing,” Shkolina said.
But there are some things that Shkolina feels passionate about. “I love chocolate and pastries. If you give me the choice – chocolate or meat, I will definitely go for chocolate! Of course before the competitions I have to keep my diet, but in off-season I can eat whatever I want”. Shkolina also loves dogs. She always wanted to have one, but realised that her travelling life didn’t let her have one. But her dream recently came true when her parents, who still live in Yartsevo, bought a shepherd. But Shkolina now has a pet as well. “It was my birthday, we were in a restaurant, just about to leave, and I noticed a small homeless kitten. I couldn’t just walk away, I took it home and now it accompanies me at the training camp,” Shkolina explained.
The winter season of 2012 left Svetlana unsatisfied as she lost to Irina Gordeyeva at the Nationals and didn’t make the team for the World Indoor Championships. But she was motivated not to let that happen before the most important sports event of the summer – the Olympic Games. Shkolina had a great competition in the very beginning of the season – at the Eugene Diamond League meeting on 2 June. She cleared 2.00 outdoors for the first time in her life. “I don’t see this meet as something special. It was my first time in the States, but I didn’t even have the time to feel it. I almost went straight from the airport to the competition and back, but maybe that was even better as I didn’t struggle with jet lag,” Shkolina recalled.
One month later she managed to improve her personal best by 1cm, and it happened when it mattered – at the National trials. The 2.01 clearance brought her the second place after the World champion Anna Chicherova and a ticket to London. “The hard work definitely paid off this season, coach Klyugin made some minor adjustments to the training, but the framework stayed the same, and of course he always brought up something from his Olympic experience,” Shkolina said.
Double World champion Blanka Vlasic is set to miss the Games, so there are a lot of speculations about the women’s high jump being a two athletes’ affair, implying Chicherova and Chaunté Lowe, but Shkolina doesn’t see it that way: “I don’t have role models, I’m not afraid of my rivals and I won’t say anything about my competition plans. But one thing I know for sure – at the Olympics there will be me and there will be the bar, and I will give my best effort to succeed.”
2003: 1.88; 2004: 1.91; 2005: 1.92; 2006: 1.92; 2007: 1.96; 2008: 1.98; 2009: 1.98; 2010: 1.98(2.00i); 2011: 1.99 (2.00i); 2012: 2.01
2003 3rd World Youth Championships (Sherbrooke) 1.86
2003 2nd European Youth Olympics (Paris) 1.84
2004 2nd World Junior Championships (Grosseto) 1.91
2005 1st European Junior Championships (Kaunas) 1.91
2005 4th World Student Games (Izmir) 1.85
2007 1st European U23 Championships (Debrecen) 1.92
2007 4th World Student Games (Bangkok) 1.90
2008 4th European Cup (Annecy) 1.93
2008 14th Olympic Games (Beijing) 1.93
2009 4th European Indoor Championships (Torino) 1.96
2009 4th European Team Championships (Leiria) 1.98
2009 6th World Championships (Berlin) 1.96
2009 5th World Athletics Final (Thessaloniki) 1.94
2010 4th World Indoor Championships (Doha) 1.96
2010 2nd European Team Championships (Bergen) 1.98
2010 4th European Championships (Barcelona) 1.97
2011 4th European Indoor Championships (Paris) 1.92
2011 1st European Club Champions Cup (Vila Real S. Antonio) 1.91
2011 5th World Championships (Daegu) 1.97
2012 1st European Club Champions Cup (Vila Real S. Antonio) 1.95
Prepared by Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2011-2012