Andrei Krauchanka won’t forget Paris in a hurry. Not only was it his first gold medal in senior competition, it was Belarus’s first in the European Athletics Indoor Championships as well as a personal best heptathlon score and national record.
Oddly, considering he is an exponent of such a workmanlike event as the heptathlon, Krauchanka is, on the contrary, a bit of a dreamer.
Dreamer, that is, in the prophetic sense: “I dreamt I would come up against a Frenchman in the 1000m and that I would have to respond to his attack if I wanted to win,” said Krauchenka with the gold medal around his neck.
This probably explains why France’s Nadir El Fassi was a little mystified as to why the Belarussian ran so hard in the final discipline of the event.
El Fassi, who lifted himself from fourth to silver with a championship best performance in the final discipline, was in with a chance of gold if he could gain enough metres on Krauchanka. Since he believed Krauchanka never ran a 1000m hard he was fully expecting him not to break the habit of the lifetime.
But the man from Gomel was fully prepared for the Frenchman’s attack after his dream and ran a superbly judged race. As ever, though, with the metaphysical, there is always a hard basis in fact.
The fact is that Krauchanka’s team-mate, Eduard Mikhan, paced the gold medallist all the way, finishing in third in the 1000m, one position ahead of Krauchanka who was pulled along to a personal best: “So thanks to Eduard Mikhan who set the pace and helped me get this result,” said Krauchanka, setting the record straight.
Often decathletes carry injury, and Krauchanka came to Paris with an injury to his right leg picked up in long jump training a month previously: “I came to Paris with an injury to my right foot and even in training before the championships I was afraid that I would not win a medal. I was afraid of the long jump and the high jump. But I have to thank our national team doctor, Dr Pavel Drinevskom, and our masseur Sergei Astapenko – they did everything to ensure I won gold.”
Ironically, it was in the high jump that Krauchanka realised he felt no pain at all: “I must have been operating on pure adrenaline because I cleared 2.09 with no problems and I did not feel the foot even when I tried 2.12.”
Many athletes gave Paris a miss because they wanted to concentrate instead on preparing for the Olympics next year. Krauchanka, however, had his own reasons for coming to Bercy: “Twice before I got bronze in European competitions [Birmingham 2007 and Barcelona 2010] so this time I decided to go for gold. I was in very good shape. However, when I came here I had serious doubts I would win because of the leg. I thought I would be pleased with second or third place.”
As a present to himself for winning gold, Krauchanka has decided on a new tattoo to go with the ones he already has running down his calves, five on each side, representing the 10 events of the decathlon. “But I haven’t decided yet what it is going to be,” he said.
Decathletes are superstitious and tattoos are one manifestation, but Krauchanka also has a car registration number featuring 9000, his dream score. His telephone number ends in his personal best decathlon score, 8617. Then there are the dreams.
If Krauchanka has anyone to thank for his success as an athlete, it is his mother. It was Elena who introduced her skinny, 1.67m/52kg-son to coach Ivan Gordienko. At first Gordienko was not convinced, but Andrei’s mother phoned him when he failed to call them. And so began the coach-athlete relationship.
There was an interruption of two years when Krauchanka travelled to Finland to train under Eduard Hämälainen, but the two did not see eye to eye and Krauchanka returned home to Gomel where he still lives and Gordienko.
Krauchanka is a member of the KGB sports club. The Russian KGB was rebranded with the fall of Communism and became the FSB, but in Belarus they retained the old name, an acronym for Committee for State Security. In order to be a member of the club each and every family member has to be cleaner than clean, including the extended family, otherwise membership is turned down.
In 2005 Krauchanka lifted European Junior gold and two years later won the European Under-23 title. One year later, he took Olympic silver. For that he received a two-bedroom flat in the capital Minsk. Appropriately, he gave it to his mother. Without her help he would not have won it. Nor without the dreams, of course.