09 SEP 2008 General News Beijing, China

Nataliya Dobrynska - Olympic Heptathlon champion

Natalya Dobrynska of Ukraine improves massively to win the Olympic heptathlon title (Getty Images)Natalya Dobrynska of Ukraine improves massively to win the Olympic heptathlon title (Getty Images) © Copyright

  Nataliya Dobrynska had all the encouragement possible to become a successful sportswoman. Or, to put it another way, she had little option.

“My mom and dad were both good at sport,” she said after her press conference, following her Heptathlon victory in a personal best of 6733 points. “They encouraged me to do as many sports as possible. They still walk a lot and skate.”

Her long journey to the top of the Olympic rostrum began in 1990. “I knew I wanted to be a serious athlete at the age of eight,” she said. She is now 26. If she hadn’t chosen athletics, she would have liked to be a swimmer. “Like Michael Phelps?” someone suggested. “Yes,” she replied, in English, smiling broadly.

Dobrynska’s mother, Lyubov (“It means ‘love,’ said a nearby Russian speaker) is a journalist – “the best in town” – said dutiful daughter. “She used to do some sports journalism, but now it’s general writing.” Father is retired, apart from indulging his love for sports. Her younger sister, Viktoria is also a heptathlete, and was part of the Ukraine squad which won the European Cup earlier in the year. Born in Brovary, the family now lives in Vinnica.

Dobrynska finished eighth at the Olympic Games in Athens. But when multi-champion, Carolina Kluft of Sweden decided to forgo the option of yet another title in Beijing, Dobrynska knew she had more than a chance of winning gold. “Coming into the Games, I thought I could win. Of course I thought that. Any athlete who does not think of winning shouldn’t take part.” That sounds harsher than she intended, but she had a broad smile on her face throughout, and broke off to take another bite out of her medal for another photographer.

A good 800 metres, the final event had brought her compatriot, Lyudmila Blonska into second place, making it one-two for Ukraine. “I’ve known her for years,” said Blonska of her gold medal compatriot – a medal awarded, incidentally by one of the most famous Ukraine athletes in history, Sergei Bubka. “We are rivals on the track,” continued Blonska, "but friends in life. Last year in Osaka, I got my opportunity (she also won silver), and this year she got hers. I’m happy for her.”

And Dobrynska was clearly happy for herself, though still a little shell-shocked from the experience, she said she had no idea what the reception back at home would be like. “I don’t know for now,” she said. But the look on her face suggested the gold was enough for the time being.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF

Please NOTE when reading each event report that Silver medallist Lyudmyla Blonska failed a drugs test and so lost her medal