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Fri Apr 18 10:04:09 SAST 2014

Heptathlon star overcomes husband's death to seek gold

Viktor Branitsky, Sapa-AFP | 19 July, 2012 10:260 Comments
Nataliya Dobrynska of the Ukraine competes in the long jump in the women's heptathlon during the Hypomeeting Gotzis 2012 at the Mosle Stadium on May 27, 2012 in Gotzis, Austria
Image by: Ian Walton / Getty Images

The 2008 Olympic heptathlon champion Nataliya Dobrynska, the main rival to British star Jessica Ennis, is making her quest for gold in London just months after the tragic death from cancer of her husband and coach.

On March 9, the 30-year-old Dobrynska danced for joy in the floodlights of Istanbul arena, celebrating her world indoor title and a new world indoor pentathlon record which made her the first woman ever to score over 5,000 points.

  But just 15 days later, her husband Dmitry Polyakov, who was also her personal coach, died of an aggravating cancer at the age of 47.

  “He suffered from a sarcoma for almost the last two years,” Dobrynska told Ukrainian media ahead of her departure.

  “He didn’t want anybody to know about his illness except the people closest to him and we kept it secret. He was a strong man and didn’t want to be an object of anyone’s pity.”  “I want to dedicate my last win at the world championships in Istanbul to him, my husband, my best friend, my coach. He was happy with my victory there and only felt a regret that he couldn’t lead me into the London Games.”  Dobrynska said that despite her husband’s death she has carried out intense preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

  “I will do everything that depends on me to win a medal in London,” she said. “It will be the best possible tribute to the memory of my husband.”  Dobrynska was born in 1982 in the small Ukrainian town of Brovary in the Kiev region to a strong sporting family.

  Her mother, who now works as a journalist, was a local star in women’s arm-wrestling, while her father worked as an administrator in disabled sports.

  Dobrynska started her athletics training at the age of six under the watchful eye of her elder sister Viktoria, who specialised in high jump and brought her younger sister Nataliya onto the track and field training arena.

  Her skills and working ability stood out rapidly, lifting Dobrynska into the Ukrainian athletics elite. The USA Massachusetts university invited her to study, offering her a grant but Dobrynska decided to stay and study at home.

  Dobrynska earned medals at world athletics championships in 2004 and 2005 but failed to win any serious title before her long-term partner Polyakov started training her early in 2007.

  Polyakov himself used to be a boxer and studied athletics techniques and training methods on his own. However, his natural educational talent and creative psychological appproach resulted in a rapid progress in Dobrynska’s results.

  She improved Ukraine’s heptathlon record on four occasions before winning the gold medal at Beijing Olympics, finishing 33 points ahead of her teammate Lyudmila Blonska, the silver medalist there.

  After marriage, in the next three years Dobrynska failed to win more titles, clinching the silver medals at the world indoor championships and the European championships in 2010 in Barcelona where she finished behind Ennis.

  “I can’t consider those three years as my career’s downfall,” she said. “I was second in Barcelona but my result was even better than I showed in Beijing.”  Dobrynska’s successful display in Istanbul this year has ended her title-winning drought but the heptathlon star said it was only a step in her preparations for London Games.

  “My main goal is a successful performance in London,” she said.

“The indoor pentathlon is a part of heptathlon but those are different competitions. I am preparing myself for a serious battle at the 2012 Olympics.”  The country’s National Olympic Committee chief Sergei Bubka, the former pole vault legend, said he expected her to perform at her best to honour her husband.

  “We (Ukraine’s NOC) did our best to prepare our athletes for the Games the best possible way,” Bubka said. “Dobrynska is definitely one of our main medal hopes.”

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