His home city of Berdichev, some 120 miles south west of Kiev, stands on the Hnylopyat River. It has had a troubled past. It is now in the Ukraine, but has variously been in Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian hands, and is famous for its ancient fortified Carmelite monastery. It was captured and plundered by the Zaporogian Cossacks in 1647, and in a moment of pillage of which his forebears would surely have been proud, Yuriy Krymarenko swooped in and stole the World High Jump title at the last day of 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (14).
Krymarenko scored the biggest upset of the championships with his victory, clearing 2.32m. It was only the second time in his career that he had topped 2.30m.
Not since the inaugural championships, also in Helsinki, has the event been won with such a modest performance. The 19-year-old Gennadiy Avedyenko took gold in 1983, also with 2.32m. He, too, was a Ukrainian, though he was in the colours of the former Soviet Union then, and of course went on to take Olympic gold in 1988.
Krymarenko hopes to emulate him, though he admires his more recent compatriot Andriy Sokolovsky technically, but he says his real idol is World record-holder Javier Sotomayor, who was in the Helsinki crowd, watching, and encouraging his own Cuban protege, the Central American champion Victor Moya.
The field, said Krymarenko, had caused him to have low expectations. "I thought Stefan Holm would win," he said. "He has won almost every jumps contest in recent years. When I woke up in the morning, I was happy just to be in that final. I did not dream of making better than the top eight."
Many others more favoured
With the first three from the Olympics, that was hardly surprising: Holm, who had cleared 2.40 metres to win European Indoor gold, looked the biggest threat, and there beside him were the two others from the Athens podium party: American Matt Hemingway and the Czech, Jaroslav Baba.
There was also the Russian, Vyachcheslav Voronin, the only other active 2.40m vaulter; Yaroslav Rybakov, Russia's reigning European champion; and Sokolovsky who had been fifth in Athens but who had cleared first time at 2.33, 2.36, and 2.38 this year; Dragutin Topic, the former European champion and world junior record-holder; and Mark Boswell, reigning Commonwealth champion.
No less than 16 of those who started the qualifying had a greater personal best that Krymarenko, and nine of them were in the final.
Tour and School
Krymarenko first came to public notice in 2003, when he won The Conseil International du Sport Militaire in Catania. His victory in Italy was also the lowest in the event's history, at 2.18.
His form was known to be erratic. In the prestigious Moravia High Jump tour in January, in Hustopece in the Czech Republic, he cleared 2.18m only at the final attempt and required two at 2.21 to advance before going out at 2.23 as Baba won with 2.35. What would he have given for that here.
With a best of 2.23, which put him equal 92nd in the world last year, he was as unlikely a title candidate as you could see. The only clue was his bronze medal at the European Under-23 championships and his dramatic improvement to 2.33 this year, a height he had jumped only once.
The secret of his success is the High Jump school in Berdichev, where he learned his trade under coach Vladimir Juravlyov.
He is a student at the University of Sport and Physical Culture in Kiev, and won the Ukraine championships to grab a last-gasp qualifier for the worlds.
He claimed he was not at all nervous as one by one the big guns were silenced. His temperament carried him through, and put Berdichev back on the map.
Doug Gillon – The Herald – for the IAAF