European Athletics is very saddened to hear of the death of world hammer record-holder Yuriy Sedykh who has passed away at the age of 66.
Sedykh is widely considered to be the greatest male hammer thrower in history, breaking the world record six times and winning major honours across a timespan of fifteen years.
The Soviet thrower won his first major title at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and he maintained this form into the early 1990s, completing the set of major titles at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo at the age of 36 and recording his last 80 metre-plus throw in 1994.
Sedykh successfully defended his Olympic title on home soil in Moscow in 1980 and remains one of just three athletes to successfully defend their title. He would have started as the favourite for a hat-trick in Los Angeles but the Eastern Bloc boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games deprived Sedykh of the chance of emulating John Flanagan who won three successive titles between 1900 and 1908.
But Sedykh is remembered just as much for his exploits at the European Athletics Championships. He won three successive titles between 1978 and 1986, the latter in a legendary duel in Stuttgart with his training partner Sergey Litvinov who was said to have broken the 87 metre-barrier in training ahead of the championships.
Litvinov smashed Sedykh’s championship record in the first round in Stuttgart with a massive throw of 85.74m. Sedykh put the pressure on Litvinov with improving marks of 85.28m and 85.46m in the second and third rounds before the reigning champion forged over the 86 metre-line on his fourth attempt which landed at 86.74m. This was the sixth world record of Sedykh’s career and remains on the books 35 years later.
Sedykh produced by far the greatest series in event history, concluding his final with near identical throws of 86.68m and 86.62m respectively. All six of his throws in the final were valid and his six throws averaged out at 85.78m, a mark only surpassed by Litvinov as well as Sedykh himself.
“On that day, everything came together: my mood, my physical fitness, my ambition, the competition, the sector, the fans and the weather,” said Sedykh reflecting on his triumph in Stuttgart which was featured in European Athletics’ 50 Golden Moments series in 2020 to celebrate 50 years of European Athletics.
Sedykh did have the chance of winning a third Olympic title in Seoul 1988 but he had to settle for silver behind Litvinov. However, his silver-medal winning throw of 83.76m was far in excess of his gold medal-winning throws in 1976 (77.52m) and 1980 (81.80m).
His final hurrah came at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo where he won gold with 81.80m and even though he didn’t compete in a major event again – he just missed out on selection at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona which he described as one of the biggest lows of his career – Sedykh still competed at a high level into the mid-1990s.
Sedykh, who spent the latter decades living in France, had two daughters who both followed in his footsteps. His elder daughter Oksana Kondratyeva competed for Russia internationally and his younger daughter Alexia Sedykh won the inaugural Youth Olympic title for France in 2010.