The Asian nation of Kazakhstan may not be normally one you would associate with athletics excellence but Olga Rypakova is doing her level best to disprove that theory.
On the opening day of the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup Rypakova produced arguably the performance of the day. She landed victory in the women’s Triple Jump thanks to her formidable first round jump of 15.25m. The mark was a new Area record, World lead and Competition record but perhaps the most significant statistic was it elevated her to seventh on the all-time lists for the event.
It was some performance.
Still aged only 25 and with only three years experience of the event she could be said to be some way short of her peak. However, Rypakova, who also landed the World Indoor title in Doha earlier this year, was not so surprised by the level of her performance here in Split.
“I felt sure it would happen and I knew my body was ready for a good result,” she said. “It was a good competition for me in very nice weather. I had good support not only from my colleagues in the team but also my family. I felt very relaxed and there was no pressure. You tend to jump your best in good conditions and that was exactly what happened today.”
Rypakova’s father, Sergey, was a former decathlete, and he introduced her to the sport of athletics from a young age.
She competed in the Long Jump at the 2000 IAAF World Junior Championships in Chile, failing to qualify, but returned to the next edition two years later in Jamaica, winning silver in the Heptathlon behind Sweden’s Carolina Klüft, a further World, Olympic and European champion.
She later took a period out of the sport to give birth to her daughter, Anastasia, who is soon to celebrate her sixth birthday before returning to strike gold in the Heptathlon at the 2006 Asian Games where she also won a bronze medal in the long jump.
Yet as she explains the move to switch to triple jumper came by chance.
“After the birth of my first child I was thinking I’d be a long jumper, but then I tried one triple jump competition it was not so bad and then I started with the triple jump only in 2007.”
Since then Rypakova has found her niche. In only her second full season at the event she set an Area record of 15.11m to finish fourth at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Last season she was crowned Asian champion and began this year on fire by winning the World Indoor title in Doha.
Coached by her father in the city of Almaty she is hopeful her success will have a positive influence on the sport in her homeland.
“I hope the result will give more attention to athletics,” she said. “I think it (my victory) is very important to the revolution of athletics. I’m not sure I am the (David) Beckham of Kazakhstan because athletics is not such a huge sport in the country but I hope this result will have more attention through the media in Kazakhstan. It is not as popular as in Europe where all the countries build up their athletes.”
She is long-standing admirer of Inessa Kravets of Ukraine and standing at a statuesque 1.82m tall with long limbs Rypakova has a similar build to the Triple Jump World record holder.
Yet unlike many athletes competing here in Split this competition does not represent the end of her season. Rypakova plans to compete at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China and she has set herself an ambitious target.
“I want to do both the Long Jump and Triple Jump and hope to win two golds,” she said.
And should this rising star of athletics achieve that goal then the “revolution” she craves in her homeland might just become a reality.
Steve Landells for the IAAF