European 110m Hurdles champion Sergey Shubenkov was the subject of arguably the most pleasant surprise of his career when former World record-holder and IAAF Ambassador Colin Jackson turned up to his training venue this afternoon (7 May) in Barnaul, the administrative centre of the Altai Krai in Siberia, Russia.
Shubenkov, 22, is one of the most promising up-and-coming Russian athletes and will be one of the many faces to watch when the IAAF World Championships are hosted in Moscow, Russia from 10 to 18 August this summer.
Before winning the European Indoor title back in March in Goteborg, Shubenkov had expressed a wish to meet and spend proper time with Jackson, a four-time European outdoor champion and three-time European indoor champion himself.
Enough was said and without hesitation Jackson responded to the call, fitting a two-day visit to this Siberian city in his busy calendar.
Assisted by the Russian Athletics Federation, Shubenkov’s coach, Sergey Klevtsov, and Shubenkov’s mother Natalya Shubenkova, the IAAF worked behind the scenes to make sure Jackson’s visit to Barnaul would remain a surprise. Admittedly, it was “extremely hard for us to keep this secret for so long” but Klevtsov and Shubenkova were true to their words and there was no denying Shubenkov’s astonishment when he saw none other than the two-time World champion and role model step on the track this afternoon.
“This is mad,” he said. “You are mad to have come all the way to Siberia just to see me!? This is unbelievable.”
Once the shock faded a bit, Shubenkov explained: “I have invited so many hurdlers to come and visit me and see with their own eyes where I train and where I live but no one ever took me seriously. You have made the trip and this is just the top for me.”
National and regional TV crews soon gathered at what was a unique event for the region.
“It was a very easy decision for me to come here,” explained Jackson. “When I got the call from the IAAF, I thought it was a fantastic idea and the reception here today is beyond my expectations.
“Sergey is a great hurdler and he is still very young. I am convinced that his best years are yet to come and I hope that my visit here today will make a big impact on his development.”
Jackson and Subenkov exchanged tips and discussed technique and physical and mental preparation this afternoon before teaming up again tomorrow (8 May) for a hurdles and sprinting master class for teenagers of the city of Barnaul.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the first time that Jackson was meeting 1986 European silver medallist Shubenkova, who finished fourth in the Heptathlon at the Seoul Olympic Games back in 1988 where Jackson won silver.
“I remember you,” Shubenkova said to Colin. “You were in Seoul and you were so young at the time!”
Indeed Jackson was 21 at the time, a similar age as Shubenkov today. And it may well be that Shubenkov’s career will shape up to be just as brilliant as Jackson’s…
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF