News26 Jan 2003

High jump legend Brumel dies after long illness


Soviet high jumper Valeriy Brumel (© Getty Images)

1964 Olympic high jump champion Valeriy Brumel who broke the world record on six occasions between 1961 and 1963, died today in a Moscow hospital at the age of 60, after a long illness.

As an 18-year-old, Brumel entered the 1960 Rome Olympics as a talented but relatively unknown athlete with a personal best of 2.17m. But he was only bettered by his Soviet team-mate, the Georgian Robert Shavlakadze, who took the gold with a first-time clearance and Olympic record of 2.16m.

Brumel needed two attempts to clear the same height, and so had to settle for the silver, but still clear of USA's world record-holder John Thomas who took bronze (2.14m).

In the course of the following few years, Brumel broke the world record six times, with his leap of 2.28m in 1963 lasting as the world’s highest ever clearance until 1970.

In 1962, Brumel won the European title (2.21m) and in 1964 took the Olympic crown in Tokyo with an Olympic record of 2.18m, again defeating Thomas. This time the US jumper lost on count-back, after both jumpers failed to clear 2.20m in a competition which lasted nearly five hours.

Disaster struck in October 1965 when Brumel sustained severe leg injuries in a motorbike accident that effectively ended his career.

In later years he took up a writing career, co-authoring a novel, a play and an opera libretto based on his own life story.

Reuters and IAAF

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