Belarussia’s Andrei Krauchanka made a major senior breakthrough last weekend (26 / 27 May) at the Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, Austria which is part of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge, where he beat reigning Olympic champions Roman Sebrle (CZE) and World titleholder Bryan Clay (USA).
The 21-year-old talent from Belarus stole the show in Austria, smashing his previous PB which he raised from 8013 points to a world seasonal best of 8617. It was a feat which now makes him a likely candidate for honours and perhaps even the title at the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 21 Sep).
The biggest step forward
Despite his outstanding result in the Mösle Stadium, Krauchanka is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “I am not thinking about the future because I am focused on what I did. I don’t want to think too much about setting new limits or breaking the 9000 points barrier”, said a realistic Krauchanka.
“I know I was doing well in training but I did not expect to go beyond 8600 points. I was aiming at 8200-8300 points.”
Krauchanka first emerged as a force when he was crowned 2004 World Junior champion in Grosseto, Italy. One year later he capped his junior career by winning the European Junior gold medal in Riga. However, his impressive senior show in Götzis did not come as a total surprise as the all-round athlete won the bronze medal in the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham last March.
What impressed most in Götzis was the improvement to his previous PBs in seven disciplines (100 metres/10.86; Long Jump/7.90; Shot Put/13.89; 400m/47.46; 110m Hurdles/14.05; Pole Vault/5.00; Javelin Throw/64.75). Remarkably he cleared 2.15m in the High Jump, one of the three disciplines where he did not improve his PB. He came very close to the 2.18 career best in one attempt when he cleared over the height but the bar fell. He won four events (Long Jump, High Jump, 400m and Pole Vault). He also managed to run 4:29.10 finishing third in the 1500m.
“I was surprised by my 400 metres. It was the biggest step forward. The Javelin and the Pole Vault were very good. I was not surprised by my improvement in the Pole Vault because I had already vaulted over 5 metres in a test before Götzis.”
Krauchanka inherited his passion from his family. His father Sergey was a specialist in the sport of Modern Pentathlon. His mother was the first person to encourage him to take up athletics in 2000. “I owe much to my mother. My win in Götzis was a present for her was she celebrated her birthday on Sunday (27 May)”, said Krauchanka.
Krauchanka is an outgoing guy from Gomel, the second biggest city of Belarus after capital Minsk. “I have an older brother who has a small business in Minsk. I want to invest the money earned thanks to my victories buying an apartment in Gomel.”
He began training with Ivan Hardeenko who has guided him since 2000. He was briefly coached for one year by Pavel Hämälainen (the father of the former Finnish and Belarussian Decathlon star Eduard Hämäiläinen who won three World silver medals in 1993, 1995 and 1997) but soon returned to his first coach.
He trains in the suburbs of Minsk where there is a sports centre. “It’s the perfect place for training because it’s quiet.”
Krauchanka is planning to study economy or law at the university but he is now focused on athletics. “I am now a student of sport and I have much to learn from it”.
“I began with many events. I was not interested in focusing in one discipline but I wanted to try competing in many events.”
Up in the air celebrations
Despite his gruelling efforts in Götzis he showed his outstanding physical ability by doing somersaults to celebrate his 2.15 in the High Jump and after the challenging 1500 metres the same exuberant display as he did after he took the World Junior title in Grosseto.
“To emerge in decathlon it is not enough to be strong. The main thing is to be fast end explosive. It’s like in gymnastics.”
“It is exciting for me to beat the Olympic and the World champions. Götzis is a special place. Crowd is fantastic. I want to come back in the future. Immediately after the competition I suffered from a slight Achilles tendon problem but soon I did not feel pain more because I was excited.”
Sebrle’s longterm prediction
Since he began with the Decathlon his idols have been Eduard Hämäläinen, Dan O’Brien and Roman Sebrle.
Krauchanka managed to beat “Mister 9000 points” Sebrle by 99 points, and it was the Czech legend who was one of the first to predict the rise to the top of the young athlete from Belarus. “I said three years ago that Krauchanka could become the future of decathlon. It was not a mistake”, said Sebrle.
Clay was also very impressed by Krauchanka’s achievement. “Andrei is absolutely amazing”, said the Hawaii-native.
The World Championships in Osaka, Japan are now the big target for Krauchanka. “Before Japan I am planning to take part in the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen in July.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF