The “Last King of Straddle:” Vladimir Yaschenko (Владимир Ильич Ященко Володимир Ященко) by Joboy Quintos
May 28, 2013
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The high jump, aside from the hurdles of course, is one of my favorite athletics events. Although I have no jumping background at all, I appreciate the event as a student of the sport. I take pleasure in watching an athlete gracefully soar over the bar – rejoice at each successful clearance or wince at each missed try.
In the weeks leading to UAAP 2010, I stumbled upon clips of Soviet high jump legend Vladimir (Volodomir) Yashchenko (Владимир Ильич Ященко Володимир Ященко). I was two years removed from my last hurdles race at that time. Although I had dreams and daydreams about athletics, a return to the sport was nothing but far-flung longings.
Those historic clips of the Last King of Straddle did much to get me back into a track and field mindset. Growing up in a time where the Fosbury Flop rules supreme, seeing the lanky yet powerful Yashchenko clear heights near 2.40m evoked feelings of wide-eyed awe. Perhaps it was the similarity of the technique to hurdling that piqued my interest, or my soft-spot for nostalgic images of a bygone age. The straddle is a forgotten technique. Long before the Dick Fosbury revolutionized the event in 1968, various techniques of the straddle were utilized.
Yashchenko was the last straddler to hold a world record. As a junior, he broke Dwight Stones’ world mark in a dual meet between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Two years later at age 20, the lanky Ukrainian flew to 2.35m to rewrite his own all-time mark. A tragic knee injury prematurely ended Yashchenko’s jumping days months later. In the subsequent years, the champion succumbed to alcoholism and depression. In 1999, Yashchenko died in penury at age 40.
Read Giorgio Reineri’s article on Yaschenko here
A year since I made the momentous decision to return to the sport I love, I can say in all honesty that I changed for the better. Even if my chances of making the 2012 London Olympics or at least going below the 14-second barrier are minutely small, it feels great to be back.
Yashchenko’s inspiring albeit tragic story was the catalyst. It made me realize that life – especially an athlete’s competitive days – is much too short to dwell upon past mistakes.
Article by Joboy Quintos
IAAF article of Yaschenko