Dmitry Kroyter is Aiming high

Promising high jumper Dmitry Kroyter will reach for the stars at Friday’s world championships and next summer’s Rio Olympics.

High jumper Dmitry Kroyter (photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
High jumper Dmitry Kroyter
(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Dmitry Kroyter entered the year with one seemingly simple goal. The 22-year-old Israeli high jumper just wanted to be healthy. However, considering all he has overcome over the past four years, completing a season without injury was not only far from a given, but at the time seemed like an almost impossible mission.
When Kroyter made his debut at the world athletics championships four years ago, it seemed like nothing would stop his rise to the summit.
He may have only cleared 2.16 meters in the qualifiers in Daegu, South Korea, 12 centimeters below the personal best he set earlier that year. However, at just 18 years of age and as the youngest participant in the event, his future looked to be blindingly bright.
The Siberian-born jumper, who moved to Israel with his mother in 1999, burst onto the scene by shattering high jump age records time and again, and claimed the gold medal at the World Youth Championships in Sudtirol, Italy, in 2009 before finishing in first place at the Youth Olympics in Singapore the following year. He went on to set a career-best 2.28 m. six days before his 18th birthday in February 2011, and despite the disappointing showing in Daegu, he looked to be living up to his billing as the future of Israeli athletics.
In his worst nightmares Kroyter couldn’t have envisioned that he would find himself on the verge of retirement at the age of 21 after spending years battling an unrelenting injury.
Last year he told longtime coach and mentor Anatoly Shafran that it was time to move on and that he wanted to retire. He had visited several specialists in Israel, but Shafran pleaded with Kroyter to try one more doctor he had heard of in Germany, a move that ultimately saved his career.
Kroyter’s career immediately took off. He won a silver medal at the European Athletics Under-23 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, last month with a jump of 2.24 m., and a few days later he booked his place at the ongoing world championships in Beijing by equaling his career best from over four years ago, clearing 2.28 m. in Leiria, Portugal.
Earlier this month, he secured his place at next summer’s Rio Olympics, setting a new personal best of 2.29 m. in Schifflange, Luxembourg.
“I have met all the targets the coach and I set myself at the start of the year,” Kroyter told Metro. “The first was to remain healthy, and the second was to win a medal at the under-23 championships. We managed to book our place in the world championships and Olympics on the way, which is a huge bonus.”
Kroyter takes part in the high jump qualifiers at the world championships today, knowing he will have to jump at his best to have any chance of reaching Sunday’s final.
“I’m entering the world championships very relaxed.
I learned this year to come to competitions relaxed without expectations and just jump and enjoy the moment,” Kroyter explained. “That is what allowed me to jump 2.28 m. and 2.29 m. I’m dying to reach the final at the world championships and to also show my ability in the final, but I only set myself targets that I know I can achieve for sure. Reaching the final also depends on other jumpers.”
Kroyter, who completed his IDF service earlier this year, explained what has allowed him to relax.
“I learned from mistakes,” he simply stated. “I really wanted to reach the London 2012 Olympics after recording 2.28 m. a couple of months prior to the start of the qualification period. I needed to repeat that jump in order to book my place, and I wanted it so badly that I put myself under so much pressure.
But I was only 17, and I should have told myself that I have many more Olympics ahead of me and that I have no reason to feel under pressure. That is something which also caused my injury to deteriorate. It’s a shame I wasn’t as relaxed then as I am now.”
Kroyter spoke about how close he was to giving up.
“I was one treatment away from retiring. I saw many doctors and spent a lot of money visiting all the experts.
I decided to try one more doctor abroad, because my coach asked me to give him a chance. I went there without any expectations. I went so I would know that I had done everything I could,” he said.
“It wasn’t that I suddenly decided that I wanted to retire. I experienced four years in which every time that I came close to jumping 2.20 m., I would suffer a thigh strain in my right leg, which would end my season.
I would do all the hard work, but it would all go down the drain when the business end of the season would arrive.”
While the doctors in Israel believed the thigh strains were originating from a nerve in his back, the expert in Germany discovered last March that Kroyter had a hidden scar on his thigh that was causing the strains every time his body reached a certain level of intensity.
He underwent three days of treatment in Germany and hasn’t been troubled by the problem since.
“I didn’t think this year would end like this. I hoped to record a comeback, and I knew I could win a medal at the U23 championships, but anything beyond that is a bonus, which gives me a lot of motivation for next year,” he said.
“All the changes I made this year are clearly working and all that is left to do is to continue with this formula in the coming years. I’m still a long way from my peak. I believe that five years of hard work can bring me to my peak at the 2020 Olympics.”
A lot has changed since Kroyter was a teen sensation that took Israeli athletics by storm. However, the prodigious talent is still there, and at just 22 years of age, time is still on his side.
“I always liked the expectations. I liked being called a wonder boy. I was a trailblazer in Israeli athletics, and I hated that when I was injured, people looked at me forlornly,” he said.
“I’m certain that 2.29 m. is not the end for me. I want to break the Israeli record. I hope that in five years I will be able to reach Konstantin Matusevich’s national record and jump 2.37 m. However, the only thing I can guarantee is that 2.29 m. is not the end.”