Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus in the Decathlon (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Florence, Italy

Krauchanka returns as a medal contender

Andrei Krauchanka produced a remarkable come-back last week at the first meeting of the 2013 IAAF Combined Events Challenge held in the Luigi Ridolfi Stadium in the beautiful Tuscan city of Florence.

The 27-year-old hadn’t completed a Decathlon for almost two years, his last one being at the Decastar meeting in Talence in 2011 where he scored 8023. But the all-round talent from Gomel, the second city of Belarus, returned to winning ways at the 26th edition of the Multistars meeting with a world-leading score of 8390.

Krauchanka broke the Multistars meeting record held by Czech Republic’s Jiri Ryba who scored 8339 in 2000. Krauchanka produced a solid performance in which he won the Long Jump (7.39m), the Shot (14.76m), the 110m Hurdles (14.11), the Discus (46.04m) and the Pole Vault (5.05m) and finished second in the High Jump (2.07m).

“All the events were good,” said Krauchanka after his winning performance in the Tuscan city. “I didn’t perform at my highest level but the performances were solid. I’m very pleased as it was my first Decathlon after two years of absence after undergoing surgery on my Achilles tendon in July 2012 in Finland.”

His next Decathlon will be later this month at the famous Mosle Stadium in Gotzis on 25-26 May, where he is expected to face Olympic champion Ashton Eaton who broke the World record last year at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene with a fabulous score of 9039 points.

Krauchanka has a great memory of the famous Austrian meeting where he made a spectacular breakthrough in 2007, smashing his PB by 604 points to go from 8013 to 8617, setting a national under-23 best.

During that competition, Krauchanka entertained the enthusiastic Austrian fans by celebrating his outstanding 2.15m High Jump clearance by performing somersaults.

Strong family values

Krauchanka inherited his passion for athletics from his family. His father Sergey served in the Army for the Air Defence Troops and was the military champion in combined events. His mother practiced figure skating, volleyball and athletics.

In 2000 Krauchanka was encouraged to take up sport by his mother. Seven years later he dedicated his triumph in Gotzis to his mother, who celebrated her birthday on the same day.

He started in athletics at the age of 14 when he took part in regional children’s competitions, showing his versatility in several disciplines – the 60m, 800m, throwing and the Long Jump.

“One day I approached my first coach, Ivan Gordienko, and I asked him to train me,” recalls Krauchanka. “He gave me a Javelin. I threw it and he was pleased so he took me to the school of Olympic reserves. I was small and thin, but I trained consistently. I was fond of combined events. I wanted to try a lot of disciplines, not just one.”

Junior breakthrough

He emerged as a rising star in 2003 when he set a World youth Octathlon record of 6415 before it was bettered by Uruguay's Andres Silva at that year's World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, where Krauchanka took the the silver medal. One year later Krauchanka won the World junior title in Grosseto with an outstanding score of 8126, a national junior record, and he backed up his win in 2005 with gold at the European Junior Championships in Kaunas with 7997.

At the beginning of 2003 he started training in Finland with Pavel Hamalainen, the father of former Decathlon star Eduard Hamailanen, three-time World silver medallist in 1993, 1995 and 1997. But later Krauchanka decided to return to Belarus to his first coach, Gordienko.

First major medals

He enjoyed an outstanding 2007 season in which he won the European indoor bronze medal in the Heptathlon in Birmingham with 6090 in a competition won by Roman Sebrle. Two months later came his big breakthrough in Gotzis, and he started as one of the medal favourites at the World Championships in Osaka. But in the Japanese city he was disqualified for a false start in the 100m.

He finished the year on a high though, when he bounced back a couple of weeks later with another solid win at the Decastar meeting in Talence with 8553 points.

In 2008 Krauchanka won the World indoor silver medal in Valencia with 6234 behind USA’s Bryan Clay. He had another impressive outdoor season in which the highlight was his Olympic silver medal in the Decathlon – again finishing second to Clay.

Having also won the European Cup in Hengelo (8585) and the Talence Decastar title (8312), Krauchanka won the overall IAAF Combined Events Challenge crown for that season.

He went on to win two more major medals – bronze at the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona (8370) and gold at the 2011 European Indoor Championships in Paris with a national record of 6282. After his last Decathlon in Talence 2011, two difficult years followed, but he is now back to his best form.

Tuscany marked something of a turning point in Krauchanka’s career. With his first major success coming at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Krauchanka returned to the central Italian region last month to mark his comeback with his victory in Florence.

It’s too early to predict what he might do in Gotzis and at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow this summer, but his performance in Florence means that he is once again being spoken about as a potential medal contender.

“I had a very good competition in Florence but I haven’t made any big plans for this season with my coach,” said Krauchanka. “I expect to return to the top next year.”

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF