Contrary to a previous announcement, Soviet pole vaulter Sergei Bubka's command performance before the 27th Communist Party Congress in Moscow will not prevent him from competing in four U.S. indoor track and field meets this month, two of them on the West Coast.
Bubka, the world outdoor record-holder, will make his first U.S. appearance this year in the Wanamaker Millrose Games Friday night at Madison Square Garden, where he will face world indoor record-holder Billy Olson of the United States.
Olson and Bubka also will meet Sunday in Chicago's Bally Invitational before coming to Southern California for the Times/GTE Indoor Games Feb. 21 at the Forum and the Michelob Invitational on Feb. 23 at San Diego's Sports Arena.
Between them, Olson and Bubka have broken the world indoor record six times since Dec. 28. A third pole vaulter to hold the world indoor record this year, Joe Dial of the United States, also will compete in the four meets.
Bubka, 22, has held the world record twice this year, most recently on Saturday, when he vaulted 19-5 at the Soviet indoor national championships in Moscow to break the record of 19-4 3/4 that Dial set Feb. 1 in Columbia, Mo.
Hours later, Olson, 27, broke the record for the fourth time of the indoor season with a jump of 19-5 1/2 at the Vitalis Olympic Invitational Saturday night in East Rutherford, N.J. Olson actually cleared 19-5 3/4, but because he hit the bar on the way up, causing it to lift off the standard and fall back a quarter of an inch higher, he is credited only with the original height.
Olson later missed twice at 19-8 1/2. Bubka's outdoor record is 19-8.
Bubka originally was scheduled to compete in the four U.S. indoor meets, but the Light Athletic Federation of the Soviet Union announced Jan. 29 that Bubka would be unable to attend because he had been selected to participate on Feb. 25 in the "Sports Festival dedicated to the opening of the 27th Communist Party Congress."
That was an offer Bubka could not refuse. The Soviets said that Bubka's only U.S. indoor appearance this year would be at the Mobil/TAC indoor championships Feb. 28 at Madison Square Garden.
But U.S. track and field officials were informed by the Soviets Monday that Bubka would not have to alter his original schedule.
Other Soviets competing will in the meets will be Bubka's brother, Vasily, also a 19-foot vaulter; Tamara Bykova, world indoor record-holder in the high jump; Galina Chistyakova, former world indoor record-holder in the long jump; and Rudolf Povarnitsin, former world outdoor record-holder in the high jump. Pole vaulter Pavel Bogatyryov and Igor Paklin, world outdoor record-holder in the high jump, have been scratched from the tour.
"I'm more than happy to trade Paklin for Bubka," said Times meet director Will Kern, who has five 19-foot pole vaulters in his meet. Besides the Bubka brothers, Olson and Dial, Olympic champion Pierre Quinon of France also has entered.
Contacted by the Associated Press Monday, Olson said it is to his advantage that he will not have to wait until Feb. 28 to meet Bubka.
"I'm excited that he's going to be there," Olson said of their first meeting Friday night in New York. "It's a lot better for me than trying to wait for the TAC meet. I'm getting tired. I've been jumping a lot this season."
The world indoor record of 19-2 held by France's Thierry Vigneron stood for 21 months before Olson broke it with a jump of 19-2 3/4 on Dec. 28 in Saskatoon, Canada.
Bubka jumped 19-3 in Osaka, Japan, on Jan. 15, but Olson regained the record two days later with a jump of 19-3 1/2 in the Sunkist Invitational at the Sports Arena. Olson raised the record to 19-3 3/4 the next weekend in Albuquerque. Dial set the record of 19-4 3/4 Feb. 1.
The closest Olson has come to beating Bubka in a head-to-head competition was in the Times Indoor Games two years ago. Bubka set a world record of 19-1 1/2 to beat Olson's 19-0. It was the first time two pole vaulters had gone over 19 feet in the same competition.
"This is the first time I feel capable of beating him," Olson told the AP. "He's probably capable of jumping higher. But so am I."