Sinai Says: Averbukh was simply the best

Alex Averbukh's achievements are unlikely to ever be repeated by another Israeli athlete.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Alex Averbukh's achievements are unlikely to ever be repeated by another Israeli athlete. He was simply that good. The 34-year-old, who officially retired after competing at the Maccabiah's pole vault competition on Tuesday, rewrote Israeli sports record books in the past decade. It is difficult to pick one highlight from Averbukh's remarkable resume. He was crowned European Champion twice in a row, in 2002 and 2006, and won silver and bronze medals at the World Championships in 2001 and 1999 respectively. Averbukh also claimed the gold medal at the European Indoor Championships in 2000 and reached the final of the Olympic Games in 2000 and 2004. Each and every one of these accomplishments is unprecedented by Israeli athletics standards and will likely remain unique for some time. However, Averbukh brought to Israeli sports much more than just medals. He was a model athlete both on and off the field. Averbukh never entered a big competition as a favorite, but he always knew how to come up with his best jump when it counted most. The Siberia native, who made aliya in 1999, won all his major medals with jumps no better than 5.85 meters, and cleared just 5.70m, a mediocre jump by top international standards, to win the 2006 European gold. Averbukh exhibited another of his rare traits in the championships in Goteborg, winning the competition with only two jumps. Throughout his career, Averbukh possessed perfect timing, passing on most heights to save energy for what he almost always correctly deemed to be the crucial jumps. It should also come as little surprise that Averbukh trained as hard as anyone else. As a former decathlete he was as versatile as any other jumper in the world and he remained in prefect shape thanks to his arduous training regime. There was, however, another side to Averbukh which most people never got to see. Averbukh was a class act in competition, but was just as impressive away from the track. In his first years in Israel many were put off by his poor Hebrew and automatically categorized him as another Russian athlete who has only come to Israel because he isn't good enough to represent his country of birth. But Averbukh was, and remains, a true Zionist and no one dared to doubt his motives for making aliya after he was awarded the gold medal at the 2002 European Championships in Munich. In one of the most memorable moments in Israeli sports history, Averbukh wept uncontrollably while wrapped in an Israel flag when the national anthem was playing at the Munich Olympic Stadium, almost 30 years to the day to the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Games. Israeli athletics was in a bad state 10 years ago and it has deteriorated since. However, it could always rely on Averbukh to be its ray of light and act as an inspiration to every aspiring athlete. Now that he has retired, however, there seem to be many barren years ahead as there is no replacement for Averbukh. But that is only natural. He was after all one of a kind and it will be many years, if at all, until we see another Israeli athlete come anywhere near his accomplishments.