Sergey Morgunov sailing to the 2011 European Junior title in Tallinn (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
The teenager from Rostov beat the longest standing World junior record on the books by one centimetre, which previously belonged to the United States' Randy Williams since the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and he also equalled the best senior mark in the world this year.
He will go to next weeks' IAAF World Junior Championships as the inevitable favourite and, in addition to his record, he will be looking to add to his gold medal collection from major championships which was started when he won at the European Athletics Junior Championships in the Estonian capital Tallinn last summer.
"I still cannot believe that I jumped that far (in Cheboksary). After my jump, which came in the sixth round of the competition, it didn't feel like a big dig distance. I had already jumped eight metres or more three times in the competition but when I saw the numbers go up on the scoreboard, I was stunned and amazed,” reflected Morgunov.
“At first it didn't register though; I'd forgotten what the World record was as my goal at the championships was just to try for the Russian junior record which then belonged to Aleksandr Menkov with 8.16m. I knew I was in good shape and I knew what I was capable of after what I had done in Tallinn.”
At the European Athletics Junior Championships last summer, Morgunov showed his competitive mettle by setting a personal best of 8.10m with his fifth attempt to go into the lead ahead of the final round.
Poland’s Tomasz Jaszczuk - who had lead earlier in the competition with his third round 8.01m – then went out to 8.11m with his last effort, to put the pressure on his Russian rival. However, Morgunov responded magnificently with the very last jump of the competition to jump a wind-assisted 8.18m to snatch back the gold medal.
“I knew after my last jump (in Cheboksary) that I'd done a Russian junior record, finally. I had beaten Menkov's mark before but with wind-assistance. However, it was only when I was gathering my things up after the competition that it dawned on me, that I'd made the World junior record; then I just sat down on the bench and thought: 'What have I done?'” added Morgunov.
Training since Tallinn
“The year since I won in Tallinn last summer has been very eventful, in terms of competitions, training camps and, of course, my studies.” he explained.
“I've spent lots of time with my coach (Nickolai Mishchenko) analysing my training, watching videos of my jumps and making corrections. Luckily, I didn’t have any injuries and I've been very fortunate not to have really had any injury problems during my career, just one small problem with my foot a few months before Tallinn.”
Morgunov knows that although he is the only junior over eight metres this year, and by a very long way, he will have to keep looking over his shoulder.
China's 17-year-old Lin Qing, the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships gold medallist, impressed when he set a personal best of 7.96m to win the Asian Junior Championships in Sri Lanka last month while the American pair of Jarrett Samuels and Jarrion Lawson have also posted long marks in good competitions on the other side of the Atlantic this summer.
“I often look through IAAF lists in my age category so I know how my rivals are doing during the season. It is interesting: some guys disappear but, at the same time, a lot of new names show up.
“I’m not focusing on certain rivals as I realized that competitions are always very unpredictable. Last year’s European Athletics Junior Championships proved this once more but I can’t say that at this moment I feel a lot of pressure on myself.
Catalan cuisine and culture
“However, I have the advantage of having been to the European Athletics Junior Championships and before that the Youth Olympic Games. International competition experience definitely helps. You learn how to feel comfortable in any circumstances, you know what to take with you.
Among the other things that Morgunov plans pack in his bag and to take with him to Barcelona, although they will not necessarily be seen in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, are his camera and swimming gear.
“I’ve never been to Barcelona before but I recently looked through some pictures. I’d love to visit Sagrada Familia or to go for a swim in the sea and to taste the local cuisine, to do some shopping and just to feel the warm atmosphere of this city,” added Morgunov, relishing the prospect of his trip to the Catalan city for more than just a chance to be the first Russian male long jumper to win a global title.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF (with thanks to Elena Dyachkova at the All-Russia Athletic Federation for her help)