Ivan Ukhov: Unique Uniform Will Keep High Jump Winner in News Long After London

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

Courtesy of rt.com
Courtesy of rt.com

Ivan Ukhov's 2.38-meter leap in the men's high jump final on Tuesday wasn't the most extraordinary part of his gold medal achievement.

It's more about what he was wearing than how high he jumped. Jumping that high isn't something to snub your nose at, but track and field fans will remember Ukhov more for wearing a t-shirt while he made one of his jumps.

That's right. He wore a t-shirt. According to Reuters reporter Neil Maidment (via Chicago Tribune), Ukhov's wardrobe issues barely impacted his performance:

Twice European and former world indoor champion Ukhov, who has the year's highest jump at 2.39, even lost his vest at one point, revealing a heavily strapped up back before hastily pinning a number to a spare T-shirt and coolly clearing his next height.

If you see the words "lost his vest" and "coolly clearing" within the same sentence, you know you're dealing with a "cool" customer.

Winning a gold medal will keep Ukhov in Olympic headlines for four years. The Summer Olympics won't be going on until 2016, but his name will be mentioned first when the time comes in some context.

Earning a gold medal in a t-shirt will keep Ukhov in the headlines even longer. For years and years, you will be able to Google Ukhov's name, and his unique uniform will surface through multiple internet hits.

Well, this will too. Ukhov "earned a strong warning from the IAAF" for these antics, according to ESPN.com.

This is obviously a very different situation, but it sheds some light on the notoriety he brought to London. Now that he has two oddity events in his favor, Ukhov's reputation will be more longstanding.

Some people just have that personality. Ukhov's focus could have been rattled by this unforeseen shirt adjustment. Instead, he collected himself and delivered another world-class jump like nothing was wrong.

Ukhov already has a wild reputation (watch the video), and this only adds to it. For athletes who get one major shot at exposure once every four years, these types of things are exactly what makes them marketable.

The Russian champion could have left London simply known as the men's high jump gold medalist. Now, he's "that high jump gold medalist who wore that weird shirt."

Quirky stories like this make London's games that much more exciting and add to the overall festivities. This specific anecdote takes an ordinary gold medal win and turns it into a memorable event.

It makes Ukhov memorable as well.