Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Russian high jumper - Ivan Ukhov - Drunk on Success!

I lived in Russia for two years. I lived right on Tverskaya, building number Seven. I was stopped by police probably two dozen times over those two years as I walked the underground passes to cross the street between Pushkinskaya and Tverskaya metro stations. But that's because the Russian police are so efficient - possibly the world's best force.

In their defence, they are massively underpaid and living in the world's most expensive city so it was no surprise they kept stopping me for being foreign in a built up area. I was their foreign ATM machine. They'd poke my chest a few times as they looked over my passport and I would dispense 500 roubles. It was like a game in the end and quickly stopped being intimidating and became more of an eye rolling running gag.

 It was warm down there in winter and large groups would be huddled around drinking the world's best vodka. I learnt quickly never to try and out drink a Russian. They start young

And if you try to keep up - you will not survive. One of my friends once told me his doctor had told him his heart would begin to miss beats if he didn't have his first beer before midday. Hmmmm. Give me the name of that doctor.

The is a picture I took of the food store near my home. I am pretty sure it is known as Gastranomie No. 1 by Russians and I am not sure what it once was. The guilded everything makes me suspect it may have been the Tzars food hall. Anyone know? But it was here I learnt to love the Russian character and my Russian friends. I took a new close friend to this store. He wasn't wealthy, in fact he was very poor and often went without because he simply couldn't afford three square meals a day. I told him he could buy anything he wanted and as much as he wanted. There was so much food, everything high quality, some fresh, some beautifully prepared and cooked. Pies, cakes pastries. What did my friend Alexis want? He bought four large baked potatoes.

Another time, during a minus twenty degree blizzard style day, I asked another friend if he'd ever want to move away to another country. His reply came in his deep booming voice - "No, I love Mother Russia." I did a double take because it sounded like a line of propaganda from a film - but he meant every word. Russia was and is a special place and I will always love my time and my Russian friends and always smile when I see a Russian, like so many I met and had wild times with.

They had character and spirit and were all universally cheeky and naughty from time to time. That's the Russian character. Like Ivan Ukhov... 

He just won the high jump at the Olympics - and he looks like he just doesn't care. Flowing hair and a bit of attitude, during the final he lost his singlet and had to jump in a ratty old Tee-shirt with the number from his sports bag pinned to the front of it. Then the commentators started talking about his infamy on Youtube. Apparently he turned up drunk and competed at a major competition I had to look it up.

The story goes he had just been dumped by his girlfriend and drank his sorrows away. Blind drunk, hardly recovered, he turned up to compete. That's just so Russian. My only surprise on seeing this footage is that he didn't do better. I have seen Russian's do remarkable things when drunk. I would have thought he'd have jumped a personal best. But his effort still made me laugh! Respect Ivan! And congratulations on showing us that you can be an elite athlete, win a gold at the Olympics and have just as many hiccups in life as the rest of us.

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