World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that 1992 Olympic hammer bronze medallist Igor Nikulin died on Sunday (7) at the age of 61.
The sad news comes just a matter of weeks after the deaths of his former Soviet teammates and rivals Yuriy Seykh and Juri Tamm, both of whom died in September.
Born in Moscow in August 1960, Nikulin was inspired to take up hammer throwing by his father, Yuriy, who competed at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, finishing fourth at the latter.
He excelled at a young age and in 1979 he won the European U20 title. When he reached the senior ranks in the early 1980s, he’d face stiff opposition from the likes of Sedykh, Tamm and Sergey Litvinov to simply make the national team for major events. Nevertheless, he won four national titles and went on to represent the USSR at two editions of the World Championships, placing fourth in 1983 and fifth in 1987, and four European Championships, earning medals at three of those: silver in 1982 and bronze in 1986 and 1990.
He achieved his career peak in 1992 when he reached the Olympic podium in Barcelona, throwing 81.38m to take the bronze medal. Not only was it the only global medal of his long career, it was also the final time he made it on to a podium at a major championships.
Nikulin remains the youngest man ever to throw beyond 80 metres in the hammer, a feat he achieved at the age of 19. He went on to throw 83.54m at age 22, the longest distance ever recorded by an U23 athlete, and a mark that ranked him second on the world all-time list at the time.
He continued improving until the age of 29, when he threw a lifetime best of 84.48m – a world-leading mark for the 1990 season. It still stands as the meeting record for Lausanne’s Athletissima.
Although he didn’t appear at any major events beyond the mid-1990s, Nikulin continued competing as a masters athlete up until the age of 42.