Ukhov and the 2.40m barrier | 13.10.2012
|Russian high jumper Ivan Ukhov.|
The man himself has still not come to terms with the fact that he is Olympic champion: "It seems to me that I still have not realised I have won the Olympic title. It is just the same competition with the same people, but at a different level. This victory is certainly prestigious and on top of that I won a medal for Russia which was gratifying, but all these titles and achievements are not a goal in themselves, I just like to jump."
Only once in his career has Ukhov jumped 2.40 and that was three years ago at an indoor meet in Athens. With gold in his pocket he had one go at that height in London before calling it a day. What does he need to do to get over that height again?
"When you stand in front of a bar at 2.40m or higher, it is hard to grasp it psychologically. I have only succeeded at that height once, but I have tried it on other occasions, it somehow evades me, there is a mental barrier there."
Ukhov is originally from the Urals and started in sport playing basketball and throwing the discus. But high jumping took his eye and he quickly evolved from 1.80 to 2.15 in 2004. By the time another six months had passed, in 2005 he was up to 2.30 and national junior record holder. That same year he took his first international title at the European junior championships and he was on his way.
Ukhov's day – less than an office worker's, he is keen to point out – begins with a drive to the gym: "I spend more time doing that than anything else."
Once there it is coach Sergey Klyugin (Sydney Olympic champion) who sets the programme of weights, jumping and running. Prior to the winter season he is shortly going to Spain for a training camp. Apart from that, he has been employed as a coach to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation sports team for the last three years with the rank of lieutenant.
This being OK, he is obliged to talk about his hair which he does not deliberately grow long, it just turns out that way. He wanted to cut it before the Olympics, but Klyugin insisted he get London out of the way first. So it was Eberstadt when the world was treated to the new-look Ukhov: "Periodically, my hair just grows back. I don't touch it," he explained.
Ukhov appears more corpulent for a high jumper than he really is (1.93m, 84kg) and revealed that he puts on weight easily but is able to lose it just as easily. His record for weight loss in one day is seven kilos, but more normally it is around two and a half. "I just stop eating!"
His wife revealed his novel courtship method. A week after they met, they went for a walk and he jumped over fences. "I was only trying to impress," he confessed. It seemed to work. Six months later they married.