Sergey Shubenkov is the real deal.
He had set a new Russian national record of 13.18s coming into the European Championships in Helsinki. Despite a headwind, the 2011 European U23 Champion ran 13.28s in his qualifying heat. The young Russian stamped his class in the semifinals, stopping the clock in a European-leading time of 13.09s.
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The way he clears the barriers is impressive. The speed of his clearance is noticeable – from the lean to the forceful lead leg snap. It is reminiscent of ease of movement of Dayron Robles’ and Liu Xiang’s respective hurdling techniques. I have yet to study a slow motion clip of his hurdling, but his form – somewhat resembling the archaic double arm shift – is refreshing to watch.
He is a technician that has remarkable speed in between the barriers, as shown by his increasingly quicker times. And he is just 21 years old!
Shubenkov’s time at the Helsinki semifinal ranks him as the sixth fastest European all-time, behind Colin Jacskon (12.91s, 1993, 26y), Ladji Doucoure (12.97s, 2005, 22y), Tony Jarrett (13.00s, 1993, 25y), Florian Schwarthoff (13.05s, 1995, 26y), and Stanislavs Olijars (13.08s, 2003, 24y). Shubenkov had run the fastest time by a European athlete since Doucoure won the World title in the very same stadium seven years ago.
The Russian is in good company. Jackson was a former world record holder, many-time European champion, and and an Olympic silver medalist. Doucoure almost won a medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had he not fallen badly. Schwarthoff is an Olympic bronze medalist and a European silver medalist. Olijars, a World Indoor bronze medalist and a former European Champion, reached the finals of the Athens Olympics.
With Shubenkov’s impressive showing at the European Championships, the future looks bright for the 21-year old. Considering his youthful exuberance, natural hurdling talent, and the sheer joy that he exudes practicing the sport, I won’t be surprised if he makes an impact at the London Olympic Games. The way he carries himself on the track reminds me a lot about Liu Xiang. Happy hurdlers, indeed, are great competitors.
Read: “Monaco Diamond League – 110m Hurdles”
A finals appearance is probable. He will be up against the likes of Aries Merritt, Liu, Jason Richardson, and Dayron Robles. Shubenkov had displayed maturity beyond his years at the Monaco leg of the Diamond League, where finished two-hundredths of a second behind Richardson. A medal is a distant possibility, if the puzzles fall into place.
Shubenkov’s win at the European U23 Champs
Shubenkov’s U23 post-race interview
Day 4 Interview (after the semis)