Feature09 Mar 2012

Istanbul 2012 - Dobrynska likes staying in the shadows


(L-R) Silver medalist Jessica Ennis of Great Britain, gold medalist Natallia Dobrynska of Ukraine and bronze medalist Austra Skujyte of Lithuania stand on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's Pentathlon (© Getty Images)

9 March 2012Istanbul, TurkeyIf it is possible to be an Olympic champion and remain in the shadows, that woman is Natallia Dobrynska, who was almost forgotten in the hype of the Jessica Ennis-Tatyana Chernova clash in the Pentathlon at these World Indoor Championships.

If it is possible to win the gold medal at those same championships, breaking a World record* which had stood for over 20 years and notching up the first-ever score over 5000 points, and still remain in the shadows that woman might just be Natallia Dobrynska, too.

Achieving personal bests in two events, solid in the other three, Dobrynska tallied 5013 points to take the gold medal ahead of Ennis’s national record 4965 and a further national record for Austra Skujyte of Lithuania of 4802.

Yet when Ukraine’s Dobrynska takes to the blocks to defend her Olympic Heptathlon title this summer in London, it will still be Ennis at the centre of everyone’s attention. The British multi-eventer will carry the burden of being a gold medal favourite, perceived as one of Britain’s few hopes for the most precious medal.

That will not worry Dobrynska one little bit. Asked at the medallists’ press conference whether she minded that all the attention in the Istanbul build-up focused on her rivals, she replied: "I don’t like to be a favourite. Being in the shadows is fine for me."

Nor will partisan support for Ennis in London from most of the 80,000 fans in the Olympics stadium bother Dobrynska.

"I will be happy," she said of that prospect. "It’s good to see your rivals supported. But I think they will be fair and be supportive of the rest of us too."

Both the gold and silver medallists had a fleeting moment of panic during the competition. For Dobrynska, it came when she briefly thought there had been a false start in the first event, the 60m Hurdles.

She thought of stopping. "But I saw you run out, so I kept on going," she said to Ennis at the press conference.

For Ennis, the moment came seconds after she won the 800m in 2:08.09, a personal best, and saw her name briefly flash up on the scoreboard as the winner.

"I saw my name up there in first position and I thought I’d won.

"Then it was snatched away from me in a moment," she said of her reaction when reality sunk in.

Dobrynska broke the World record which has stood at 4991 points to Irina Belova of Russia (competing for the Unified Team) since February 1992.

"We were thinking of the World record," Dobrynska said. "We knew it was likely to happen because of the tough competition, and it happened today."

Since winning the Olympic title, Dobrynska has seen Ennis win at the 2009 World and 2010 European championships and Chernova take the gold at the 2011 World Championships.

Asked why she peaked in Olympic years, Dobrynska replied she did not know. "It is a special year, and everyone wants to be at the top then. But I’m not sure why I am at my best in Olympic years."

She said she had spoken with her coach and husband, Dmytro Polyakov, who was not in Istanbul, during the competition and thanked her parents, Volodymyr and Lyubov Dobrynska, who are here to share her triumph.

Ennis reflected on her competition, saying that she was not overly disappointed. "I feel I’m in a good position. I will go away and have a week’s break, but I know I can make improvements."

Ennis produced personal bests in the Shot Put and 800 and said her hurdles as a great start to the competition.

"I expected more in the High Jump, but having said that, it was a solid jump. But my long jump let me down a little."

Skujyte said she "hoped for, but did not expect" her bronze medal.

"I started with two personal bests, but my shot put was not good and I was hoping for more in the long jump."

She had been worried about holding off Chernova and others in the 800, she said. "My coach told me that I had lost points in some of my strong events, so now I had to catch up some of them in an event where I am not strong."

Skujyte did just that, her 2:19.99 giving her enough points to remain safely clear of Poland’s Karolina Tyminska and Chernova to take the bronze medal.

Len Johnson for the IAAF

*pending the usual ratification procedures