Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Winter 2010 Contents 98 scoop WINTER 2010
I was 14 when I started training to be a pole vaulter. I d
been invited to attend an Olympic sport school in Moscow
as a multi-event athlete, but the coach wanted me to train
purely in pole vault. I said I didn t think it was the right
choice; it was never my strongest event. But he said it was a
good thing having a solid base on different disciplines and I would progress fast.
He didn t convince me, I was in tears and I wanted to go back
home. Then I felt a need to prove myself. It was a high level
public school with some of the best athletes from across
the Soviet Union. So I found time to do extra training and
chin-ups in a park nearby. In a year I jumped from 3.2m to
4.5m. That s when I realised this was my event.
I fell in love with the challenge of pushing my body s
limits. Pole vaulting is such a tricky event, a very technical
event. It s not like sprinting where you do the same routine
every time. There s a lot more to it -- the run, the pole
placement, the gymnastics over the bar. It s very much
like an art. You re always exploring yourself and trying to
see things from different angles.
I remember my first trip overseas and discovering the
truth about my country. I was 17 and we had a competition
in the United States. Obviously I d been brainwashed in
the Soviet Union so it was a shock to me when I arrived in
Washington DC and saw the different ways people lived. I thought "what a
mess, these people with no homes". But then I started to understand what was
happening back home. It was the first time I felt it wasn t exactly truth what they
told us in the Soviet Union.
One of the toughest things I ve had to do was give up my spot (in the
USSR s athletics team) in the Helsinki world championships of 83. I got
through the selection trials, but the Athletics Federation of Russia asked me
to step down for Sergey Bubka, a very talented 19-year-old who went on to
become the world champion. I could see how great he was going to be, but it
was still a very hard thing to do after getting so far.
I had an accident on the pole vault when I was 26 which ended my athletic
career. I landed on the side of the pit and smashed my ankle. But I believe it
gave me extra drive to become a coach. I had found the right technique for
me, achieved a high level, not the best in the world, but for me. And I felt it
was time to help other people reach their goals.
My coaching philosophy is to never train athletes as a group. They re all
individuals with different strengths and weaknesses and need to be treated
so. I ll always sit down with them one-on-one at the start of the season and
develop a program that works for them. It s about getting the best outcome for
each individual. If I treat them like 10 team members and I m the leader, it s not
going to work. At the same time, I never want them to think I m prioritising
another athlete. They have to feel "Alex is always on the side, Alex will always
help me, Alex will always make the right decision to get me to the top".
The first time I came to Australia it was like heaven. We were here for a
holiday, staying on the beachside, swimming every day. The
people were so friendly. So when the opportunity arrived to
come to Australia, it was a clear choice for me and my family.
I felt it would be unfair to leave Russia without my
athletes. They had been with me for 10 years. So when I
informed them of my decision to continue coaching in
Australia, I extended the "invite" for two of them to join
me. They could still compete for Russia but I would make
time on the side to work with them. It was Viktor Chistiakov (Alex s wife s
brother) and Dmitri Markov who came with me and Viktor s wife, Tatiana
Grigorieva, joined us a few months later. She was a hurdler and said "what if
I switch to pole vault?" I told her it wasn t a good choice, I don t have much
experience training women and she s a good hurdler. But she really wanted
this and in 14 months she jumped 4.35m to become sixth in the world.
Coaching my kids has been no more difficult than coaching any other
athlete. I treat them all the same. Lots of parents complain that they re not
even talking to their teenage kids because they have such different interests.
For me, I get to share my passion with them every day. It s a pleasure for
me to see my kids in a healthy environment but I also like when I can
take my coaching hat off and just be dad.
I m always learning from my athletes. They re all different characters
-- physically and emotionally -- and they ve all given me something that I can
use in the future. Steve Hooker, Paul Burgess, my younger athletes -- they each
have a unique experience of the event and their own way of describing it. I
have to be in tune with that to help them move forward.
Sport has changed a lot over the past 20 years. Once you would only
be competing for glory and the honour for your country. Now there s a big
emphasis on prize money and athletes establishing their name for advertising
or other areas outside of the sport. I m happy to work with athletes who are
willing to do something great for Australia, who care about the importance
of getting kids off the street or away from the TV. This is the message more
sportspeople need to send. sm ~As told to Nathan Scolaro
|| From page 91
RAISING the BAR
HIGH FLYER: Alex Parnov at the WA Athletics Stadium; (left)
Olympic gold medallist Steve Hooker is one of Alex's charges.
Links Archive Scoop 52 Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page