THE SEOUL GAMES : Track and Field : Bubka, Who Has Vaulted 19-10 1/2, Has Sights Set on 20-Foot Mark

Associated Press

Inch by inch, Sergei Bubka of the Soviet Union has been raising the world record in the pole vault.

Will this be the time he reaches 20 feet, one of those mythical track and field barriers like the 4-minute mile and the 10-second 100-meter dash?

As surely as those once seemingly unbreachable barriers were surpassed, someone will vault 20 feet. And many people think it will be Bubka.

In fact, he may already have done it on several of his record-setting vaults when he cleared the bar with inches to spare.

Prevented by the Soviet boycott from competing in the 1984 Games, Bubka set a world record of 19 feet 4 inches 2 weeks earlier.

He has been edging the record up ever since, and it stands at 19-10 1/2. Some say he's only been doing it in small increments because he reaps cash rewards every time he breaks the record.

Whatever his previous motivation, Wednesday (Tuesday in Los Angeles) may be when Bubka flies over 20 feet as he seeks his first Olympic medal.

Twenty feet isn't quite as magical a number in the international track world, where distances are measured in meters. In the metric world, he already has passed the magic mark of 6 meters. His world record is 6.06 meters.

The impact in the United States and non-metric countries, though, will be considerably greater.

"I have jumped 6 meters for the Europeans' happiness," Bubka said before the Seoul Games started. "I will jump 20 feet for the Americans' happiness."

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