Spikes17 Mar 2015

The Big Sjo


Patrik Sjoberg (© Giancarlo Colombo)

Only two men have ever jumped higher than Patrik Sjoberg. Ato Boldon speaks to the former high jump world record holder for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.

While the current crop of male high jumpers is beginning to threaten Javier Sotomayor’s longstanding world record, there is one athlete who is likely to retain his own distinctive accolade for a few more years at least.

Patrik Sjoberg is the only man to have collected high jump medals at three separate Olympic Games. And if it weren’t for the impact of injury, the charismatic pony-tailed Swede believes he could have had more.

“I had a plan. I was going for five Olympics, but at Atlanta [1996] I got injured two days before qualification, and I was in my best shape ever,” he says. “After that, I just didn’t have any motivation.”

“I was close three times, but I didn’t get the gold. When I look back, a gold is always a gold but at the same time nobody else has three medals in a row.”

Sjoberg’s 2.42m in 1987 (which was a world record at the time) had only been bettered by Sotomayor until the end of last season, when Mutaz Barshim went over 2.43m in Brussels. The Qatari is one of several members of the current generation vying to crack Sotomayor's 2.45m record, and Sjoberg believes the training culture that produced so many outstanding jumpers during the 1980s is finally being replicated.

“I was fortunate to compete against the biggest names, the best guys,” he says. “We had a kind of agreement where we trained together, helped each other, and we had a really healthy competition. That’s what you can see right now.”

Sjoberg also tells Boldon about the differences between his era and the modern day, and what he thinks makes a perfect high jumper.

Watch the full eight minute episode below: