Archive for October, 2013

SETTING A HIGH BAR

October 13, 2013

The Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko is in the news today. The athlete cleared 2.41 m (7 ft 11 in) and was crowned European Athlete of the Year. Alongside, he also won the prestigious Diamond Race with his winning jump in Lausanne. It was mentioned in the news that Bohdan Bondarenko is the fourth person in the world who has jumped higher than 2.40 m. I wondered what was the present-day men’s high jump record and went to the respective wiki page. The latest record of 2.45 m (8 ft 12 in) was set by a Cuban high jumper Javier Sotomayor in 1993. Hardly any teenager in Ukraine knows Javier Sotomayor. When I was in the fifth grade the name of another athlete was on our lips: Valery Brumel.

2013-10-13Valery BrumelEvery day I came home from school, and after a hasty lunch rushed to school again. There I took a bar from the gym and carried it to the sand pit where I placed the bar between two vertical poles, and jumped over it, periodically knocking it and clearing it and placing it higher and higher. And each time the face of Valery Brumel, our idol, was before my eyes.

This time I googled the name “Valery Brumel.” Alas, he died from cancer in 2003 at the age of 60. He had set world records six times raising them from 2.23 m (7 ft 3 34 in) to 2.28 m (7 ft 5 34 in). One of the records on the list of men’s high jump progression is especially memorable to me: 16July, 1961 – 2.24 m. I was in a summer camp at that time. The international track-and-field events were being held in Moscow, and the television room was stuffed with kids who wanted to watch Brumel.  It was the time for the evening meal , but none of us went  to the canteen: we were waiting for “Brumel’s jump”.  Having bested all his opponents, he was competing only against the bar placed at 2.24 m. He failed the first two attempts and we were standing in breathless silence waiting for his third one. Valery sped up to the bar, and … the moment we understood  he “has made it”, we gave a collective shout at the top of our voices even before Valery touched the ground. I think the shout was heard as far as Kyiv – 40 km away.

2013-10-13Valery Brumel-2Further information from the Internet:  in 1965, on Moscow pavement slick from heavy rain, Valery  was a passenger on a motorcycle that skidded out of control at high speed at night, throwing him into a lamppost. His right shin and ankle were shattered. The leg was saved only by 29 operations, and for three years it remained in a cast. After more operations, he trained lightly for three months and tried jumping again. He never regained world-class level, but he said that ”every centimeter is a victory for me.’

Until the injury, he enjoyed a storybook career. He competed in three meets in Madison Square Garden in 1961 and two in 1963, beating the American high jumper John Thomas each time. However, they were good friends. Thomas went to Russia six or seven times and stayed at Brumel’s house. ” Thomas said they talked a lot, not about sports, but good-old-buddy talk. They were still the best of friends.

Before high jumpers flopped over the bar back first, Brumel was a 2013-10-13Valery Brumel-3physical marvel. At 1.85 m (6 ft 1 inch — not tall for a high jumper) and 80 kg (175 pounds), he could run 100 meters in 10.6 seconds and squat 175 kg (385 pounds). With his remarkable vertical lift, he could kick a basketball rim. He explained his strength by saying, ”The barbell and I are particular friends.” Jim Tuppeny, an American coach, said of Brumel’s quickness, ”With his speed, he is actually sailing.” In his prime, Brumel, as a Master of Sport, lived in a three-room apartment, drove a Mercedes and received an extra 120 rubles a month, all beyond the dreams of the average Soviet athlete. He later coached and wrote a novel, a play and an opera libretto, all based on his life. As he told Amateur Athlete magazine in 1971, ”Sports fans like persistent people who will not tolerate defeat in a single battle. I want to . . . I can . . . I must jump.”

There was one moment in Brumel’s life that particularly struck me. He came to know what betrayal was. After the motorcycle accident his wife left him and their little son. That happened when Valery walked on crutches and received 160 roubles of pension.

???????????????????????????????One of my American friends said his favorite read was biographies. I understand why. Great people keep inspiring us with their lives long after they are gone.

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THE SUMMER’S GONE, THE AUTUMN’S HERE…

October 5, 2013

2013-10-05summer is over2Heating season is defined as the period of the year during which heating is necessary to maintain comfortable conditions in one’s flat/house. In the United Kingdom this season lasts approximately 33 weeks. In Ukraine the government is required by law to provide tenants of residential buildings with heat from October 15th till April 15th.    That’s the sticking point: even if the outdoor temperature (and, consequently, the temperature indoors) warrants the provision of heat, it will not be supplied because the time has not come yet. The communist regime in the ex-USSR was more flexible in this respect: the Big Brother could, in a lordly way, “give the heat” earlier than was set by the law. Some loving hand, at some unknown place, used to turn on the heat and … Long live the Soviet power! exclaimed happy voices in Soviet homes. ”The summer’s gone, the autumn’s here, we thank you for this, Party dear!” Sarcastically pronounced, the rhyme could, however, be accepted at its face value too.

The times have changed. By adhering to October 15 as the beginning of the “season”, the authorities demonstrate their law-abidance! Isn’t it their greediness? Ineffectiveness? Disregard? Negligence?

The son says (via Skype) that in Britain they turn on heaters whenever they need to – even in July.

2013-10-05I peep into the Internet. The weather bureau is promising the arrival of the Indian summer in a couple of days – just as they have been promising it for the last three weeks. A group of Kyivans came to the municipal council to demand that their homes should be heated. The activity is called the “march of the blankets.”  I wrap the sports jacket with the emblem of the University of Leeds (my son’s gift) round my throat and shoulders, finding comfort in one thing only: my computer is not overheated.


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