Svetlana Shkolina: Fulfilling Her High Jump Potential

Svetlana Shkolina celebrates a successful jump on her way to victory at the 2013 World Championships. Ian Walton/Getty Images

High jumper Svetlana Shkolina wore the label of a potential star for many years, by virtue of her success at the youth and junior levels. It took some time, but Shkolina translated her potential into professional, senior medals, beginning at age 26, on the biggest track and field stage of all.

Discovery

Young Svetlana didn’t have any track and field ambitions, even when she began training. At age 9, in her small home town of Yartsevo in far western Russia, physical education teacher Konstantin Konstantinov was the first to spot Shkolina’s athletic potential.

He asked Shkolina to join a small sports club that he and his wife, Margarita, ran in the basement of a local school building. With nothing more interesting to do after school, Shkolina trained in both running – which she admits she didn’t do well – and jumping. She was strong in the long jump, but better in the high jump.

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Success – And Serious Training

Shkolina’s fun after-school activity turned serious in 2003 when she won the Russian Youth Championships and earned a high jump silver medal in the World Youth Championships. When she graduated from secondary school she enrolled at an Olympic Reserve school in Moscow, where she began training with 1976 Olympic high jump finalist Galina Filatova. Shkolina continued to improve, gaining a silver medal at the 2004 World Junior Championships with a then-personal best leap of 1.91 meters (6 feet, 3 inches).

She won the European Junior Championship in 2005 and the European Under-23 gold medal in 2007. During the 2007 season she increased her personal best to 1.96/6-5.

Onto the Senior Stage

In 2008, the 22-year-old Shkolina earned a spot on Russia’s competitive Olympic team by clearing a personal best 1.98/6-6 to finish third in the national championships.

She then reached the final in Beijing, but could only clear 1.93/6-4 to finish 14th. The international experience helped her improve in her next few championship meets, but she couldn’t quite reach the medals stand, placing sixth at the 2009 World Championships, fourth at the 2010 World Indoor Championships and fifth at the 2011 World Championships. She switched coaches during this time, joining 2000 Olympic champion Sergey Klyugin’s team in 2010.

Stepping Up in London

The year 2012 became pivotal for Shkolina, but began poorly as she failed to make Russia’s World Indoor Championships team. But the outdoor season provided a different story. She accomplished her first 2-meter (6-6¾) outdoor jump, although she’d previously topped 2 meters indoors. She then improved her personal best to 2.01/6-7 while placing second in the national championships, to earn her spot on Russia’s 2012 Olympic team. In London, Shkolina made the finals easily, with a clean qualification card on three jumps. She was also clean in the final through 2.00. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she had already assured herself of the bronze medal. But for good measure, she increased her personal best with a third-attempt clearance at 2.03/6-7¾, placing third behind fellow Russian Anna Chicherova and American Brigetta Barrett.

Moscow Glory

The Moscow fans were expecting to see a Russian win the 2013 World Championship women’s high jump gold medal, but Chicherova seemed the most likely candidate. Shkolina, who’d won that year’s national championships (in which Chicherova didn’t compete), matched her fellow Russian during qualifications, as both were clean in two attempts. Shkolina then fell behind in the final with an early miss at 1.93. But she moved into second place, behind Barrett, by clearing 2.00. Shkolina then topped 2.03 on her first try to win the gold medal. Shkolina went on to earn the 2013 Diamond League season title by winning three of the seven events – in Oslo, Stockholm and the Diamond League final in Brussels.

Stats

  • Height: 6 feet, 1½ inches
  • Weight: 146 pounds
  • Birth date: March 9, 1986
  • Hometown: Yartsevo, Russia
  • Personal best: 2.03 meters (6 feet, 7¾ inches)

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