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Alex Averbukh

(1974 - )

Alex Averbukh was born on October 1, 1974, in Irkutsk, Siberia. Averbukh was the Russian decathlon champion and won the European-under 23 decathlon championships in 1997. The following year, he decided to concentrate on the pole vault, his favorite event. In May 1999, Alex made Aliyah and quickly broke the Israeli national record with a vault of 5.80 (the old mark was 5.76) He later said, "I have a strong sense of Jewish identity. I feel very good about being in Israel. And this has been reflected in my performances."

In August of that year, Alex made the final at the World Championships; fellow Israeli Danny Krasnov also made the final, making them the first Israeli duo to reach the same final at the Worlds. In the final, Alex captured the bronze medal, becoming the first Israeli to ever medal at the competition. He said of his accomplishment, "I understand that my achievement in Spain (the competition was held in Seville) has brought a lot of pleasure to Israel, and that makes me very happy."

On March 8, 2000, Averbukh became an Israeli citizen and claimed the gold medal at the European Indoor Championship. He won the Israel Athletic Championships with a new national record (5.85 meters). He then won the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games (setting a Games record of 18'4-1/2") and the silver at the 2001 World Championships with a vault of 5.85-meters. This was the highest finish achieved by an Israeli athlete at the World Championships (Alex had previously won the bronze in 1999).

Later, he was a member of Israel's track and field team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

In 2002, Averbukh took the gold medal in the men's pole vault at the European Championships, the first time in the competition's history that an Israeli athlete ever won a gold. The Championships were held in Munich, Germany and Averbukh's victory came almost 30 years after the attack by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics that killed 11 Israelis. Following his historic victory, Averbukh said, "I dedicate this medal to my father [who died in December, 2001] and to the people of Israel. I want to give a little present to the Israeli people because the news from there is not so good."

After the European Championships, Alex finished second at the IAAF Grand Prix Finals in Paris and was ranked No. 4 in the world at the end of 2002. In 2003, Averbukh continued to be one of the top pole vaulters in the world and was ranked No. 1 during the summer. However, he was dogged by injuries for much of the second half of the year, and did not get past the preliminaries at the World Indoor Championships. He also did not qualify for the World Outdoor Championships. Nevertheless, Alex broke his own national record at the Madrid Super Grand Prix with a height of 5.93-meters (19'-5 1/2") in July 2003.

In June 2004, Averbukh made the highest successful jump in Europe to that point — 5.85 meters. He won the prestigious Rome tournament in early July, as he beat his closest competitor, Richard Spielburg of Germany, by a narrow tie-breaking jump over a 5.67 meter bar. In July 5, Averbukh was back in Israel for the National Championship which he won easily with a 5.70 meter jump. He competed, and won, another Golden League competition in Paris on July 24, this time he managed an impressive 5.75 meters. On July 27, at the Stockholm Grand Prix, Alex failed to clear the bar as he opened at a presumptuous 5.65.

The No. 10 ranked pole vaulter in the world as of August 5, 2004 (he was ranked No. 1 in July 2003), Averbukh entered the 2004 Athens Olympic Games with high hopes for a medal. After finishing fifth in his preliminary group with a height of 5.65-meters, he advanced to the finals and finished in tenth place (5.50-meters).

Sources: Jews In Sports