Anatoliy Ryapolov (Lenar Rakhmatullin) © Copyright
Feature Armavir, Russia

Ryapolov out to make missed chance to meet Mike Powell pay dividends

Russia’s prodigious 16-year-old long jumper Anatoliy Ryapolov recently set the national boy’s record flying to 7.90m and put himself in the position of being a very strong medal contender at this week’s IAAF World Youth Championships, which starts on Wednesday (10) across the border in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Ryapolov is now second on the 2013 youth list and only five centimetres in arrears of China’s Wang Jianan, although the latter also jumped 8.04m last year.

When the main competitor in the very first jump shows the result higher than your current PB – this promises big problems even for a senior athlete.

In a thrilling competition at the Russian national trials in Chelyabinsk, Ryapolov should his talent and his competitive spirit right from the start. His main rival Maxim Yunyakin went out to 7.59m with his first attempt, 16 cm longer than Ryapolov’s best at the time, but he then responded with a huge leap of 7.78m and, unlike his rival, with a legal wind.

 “I called my home in Armavir right after my first attempt, from the sector,” recalled Ryapolov. “I was so happy. My coach said my goal for the competition was to jump something about 7.50 or 7.60; and so 7.78m was just far above our expectations. I could not keep my emotion and wanted to share it with my parents immediately!”

However, there was still more to come.

With his next attempt Ryapolov flew to a record 7.90m and, again, the wind was legal at 1.8 metres-per-second

Russia’s men’s long jumping is on a high at the moment after recently produced a bunch of top names that can match the historical high profile of its women jumpers. There is the current Diamond Race champion, 2013 European Athletics Indoor Championships gold medallist and current world leader Alexander Menkov, as well as World junior record holder and 2012 World junior champion Sergey Morgunov, who is still just  20.

A curious detail Morgunov and Ryapolov have in common is that they both currently train under their very first coaches rather than being handed on through the Russian system.

Ryapolov’s coach Igor Naymit used to be a regional-level triple jumper. Now he works in the town of Armavir in the south of the country and is eager to train every kid in any athletics discipline.

Naymit discovered Ryapolov had talent at the age of 10.

Fast learner

“I first saw Tolya when he accompanied to training his elder brother”, said Naymit. “I noticed that the boy was already tall and fast, but as Tolya was just 10 and the youngest in the group, I did not want to get too serious about his future. We just did the normal program of so called ‘kids athletics’ – games, running, throwing the ball. I took Tolya to training camps with older kids where he loved climbing in the mountains”.

“It was at these training camps where I realized that I actually loved athletics,” remembered Ryapolov.

“It was cool to travel over the country with older guys. I wanted to follow them, and step- by-step I started doing multi-event competitions, and then the Long Lump”.

Multi-events contest is compulsory for almost every Russian young athlete but Ryapolov became the record holder for his region. Over 100m, his best stands at a reasonable 11.02 but it’s worth remembering that it was produced into a strong head wind of 3.8 mps.

“I firmly believe that the speed is the basis of the Long Jump,” added Naymit. “But Anatoliy has got not only fast legs, but also the feeling of the rhythm on the run up, which is very important. We added two more steps to his run up this summer, this raised his speed significantly, but he did not start to make more fouls”.

In the last 12 months Ryapolov has grown to 1.92m – and he is still growing! This creates some coordination problems at the moment but probably promises a very bright future.

His hero is World record holder Mike Powell and it took Anatoliy all his will power not to leave everything and fly to Moscow recently, when the World record holder Mike Powell was giving his master class as part of the IAAF Kids Athletics program on the eve of the IAAF Moscow Challenge meeting last month.

“I just love the style of Mike’s running, his flexibility, his jumping technique,” added Ryapolov.

“I’ve seen many videos of the World record and when I learnt that Mike was coming to Moscow, of course, my first desire was to go there too!

“However, I was in the middle of preparation for the national trials, and I thought that such a trip would ruin my chances to qualify for Donetsk. I now try to calm down myself that all the exercises Mike showed in Moscow I actually already do, but I still feel very sorry I missed the chance to meet the legend.”

Hopefully, Ryapolov’s first international competition in Donetsk would prove that this sacrifice was not in vain.

Natalia Maryanchik for IAAF