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By that time I was already interested in track and field, which I practiced at the Children's Sports School under the leadership of Vadim Zaporozhanov. I was too weak physically, and my training varied, since many of my muscles had to be strengthened.
I forgot to tell you that even before, when I was 12 or 13 years of age, I had mastered the technique of such complicated sports as pole vaulting and hurdling. That allowed me, later, without much training, to score 7,200 points in the decathlon. At present, my best results in various categories of track and field are: high jump, 6 feet 6¾ inches; pole vault, 13 feet 9¼ inches; 400-meter run, 50 seconds; 200-meter dash, 21.7 seconds; 200-meter hurdles, 23.7 seconds; shot put, 44 feet 3¼ inches; 100 meters, 10.4 seconds. [Here, and from this point on, unfamiliar metric measurements have been translated into feet and inches.—ED.]
But now I am running, somehow, ahead of things.
At the Russian Olympic Trials in 1956, I jumped 25 feet 4¾ inches, breaking the U.S.S.R. record by almost two inches. That record lasted only as long as Oleg Fedoseyev needed to jump in his next attempt and break it. Nevertheless, I won the right to go to the Olympic Games for the U.S.S.R. Our team was to take part in the Games for the second time; for me, this was the first attempt at international competition.
In Melbourne I was full of desire to jump far, but I did not know how to judge conditions realistically. I would dash forward like a madman, and as a result I fouled three times.
These Olympics were a big lesson. I saw all the best track and field performers on our planet. Until then, I considered the American, Gregory Bell, as the best broad jumper. He combined all the best qualities of a sprinter and a jumper, and his technique deserved to be imitated.
Four years passed. One had to do a lot during these years. Studies at the institute took much time. Before lunch there were lectures and seminars, then training and, in the evening, study at home or at the library. Working with books showed me how little I knew. I had much to read and learn.
As far as sports were concerned, things weren't any easier. I knew I was too slow in my approach run to jump very far. I knew that what I lacked most was speed. My results improved slowly. Although I ranked first in Europe in 1958 with a jump of 25 feet 7½ inches, it was still clear to me that my insufficient technique would hinder further progress.
I spent much time on various experiments; many things I had to discover by myself. But I was experimenting too much and I couldn't decide on anything. People are right when they say that even a bad system is better than no system at all.
In that respect, things are easier for the American broad jumpers because such brilliant athletes as Jesse Owens, Eulace Peacock, John Bennett, Gregory Bell, Ernie Shelby and Ralph Boston followed one after the other. They could learn from each other and, also, they could look back for good examples.