The Man Who Broke the World Record For Pole Vaulting — 35 Different Times

Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka was virtually unknown before he won the 1983 World Championship at just 19, but in the years that followed, he became the most famous name in the sport. He vaulted with a heavier pole to generate greater force and, unlike most of his competitors, he used his strength to carry the pole from the very end for better leverage. In fact, it quickly became clear that Bubka was too good and competitions became mechanical displays of Bubka's talent. That made them a bit uninteresting because there was no chance for the other athletes to match his prowess. Eventually, sponsors stopped offering the traditional win bonuses that track and field athletes rely on. That’s when Nike stepped in and started paying Bubka to basically compete against himself, offering him world record bonuses of $100,000. Bubka made the wise business decision to spend the next decade breaking records as often as possible, at one point setting 14 records over the course of just a couple of years. Only once did he lose the world record title — and even then it was a brief concession. At an August 1984 track meet in Rome, previous record-holder Thierry Vigneron passed Bubka's standing record of 5.90m — only to have Bubka regain the record with a 5.94m vault just a few minutes later. In the end, Bubka had the last laugh, when he walked into retirement with an accumulated worth of $245 million.