UMaine assistant coach, former track standout to compete in London Games

Posted July 27, 2012, at 5:09 p.m.
UMaine’s Viktoriya Rybalko competes in the long jump during the America East track and field championships at UMaine’s Beckett Track Complex in Orono in 2003. Rybalko will be competing for Ukraine in the long jump at the London Olympics.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
UMaine’s Viktoriya Rybalko competes in the long jump during the America East track and field championships at UMaine’s Beckett Track Complex in Orono in 2003. Rybalko will be competing for Ukraine in the long jump at the London Olympics. Buy Photo

ORONO, Maine — Former University of Maine track and field standout Viktoriya Rybalko, who returned to UMaine last year as an assistant track coach, will compete in her second Olympic Games when the women’s long jump begins Aug. 7 at the London Games.

“Why not?” Rybalko said in a UMaine press release. “Participation in the Olympics has always been one of the highest achievements for any athlete, including myself.”

Rybalko, competing for her native Ukraine, finished 12th in the long jump during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The qualifying rounds of competition in the women’s long jump will be held at the Olympic Stadium in London. Rybalko’s personal-best jump of 6.95 meters (22 feet, 9 1/2 inches), which she registered on June 13 during a meet in Yalta, Ukraine, is ranked 16th in the world this year. The distance improved her previous personal best of 6.87 meters (22 feet, 6 1/2 inches).

Rybalko was named an All-American in 2003 at UMaine after she finished second in the long jump at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She won 10 America East individual titles while also leading the UMaine women’s team to the 2003 New England Championship.

In addition to her athletic successes, Rybalko was also a top student while at UMaine. She earned the 2003 ‘M’ Club Dean Smith Award, given to Maine’s top scholar-athlete.

Rybalko has earned her master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Rochester and is pursuing her doctorate in exercise science at the University of Texas.

Following the Olympics, Rybalko intends to return to UMaine as an assistant coach, while her adviser at the University of Texas establishes a research collaboration at UMaine, which will allow her to continue working on her doctorate.

“UMaine is my second home. I love everyone there: coaches, staff, administrators and most of all, my athletes,” Rybalko said in the press release. “I definitely want to contribute as much as I can to make a difference and help my athletes to learn how to set and achieve their goals. It is the greatest lesson in life any coach can give.”

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