Sat, Nov 22, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Sky no longer limit for sex-change pole vaulter


Only the sky was the limit when Yvonne Buschbaum soared to big heights as one of the leading women’s pole vaulters in Germany.

Now the sky is wide open for Buschbaum, who feels the lightness of being after revealing her transsexuality last year and undergoing a gender change to Balian Buschbaum since then.

“Courage is the road to freedom. I woke up in complete freedom today. The sky is wide open,” a recent diary entry on his Web site said.

Buschbaum is not ready yet for interviews, as “I am still flying on my clouds of freedom and won’t land until the end of November, at the earliest.”

The operations have also taken a toll on the 28-year-old.

“He is still a little weak from the surgery. But he can get up and is upbeat that he can leave for home on the weekend,” Buschbaum’s former coach Herbert Czingon said.

A year has passed since Buschbaum revealed that she felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body and would undergo the gender change to find her personal freedom.

She appeared in television talkshows and also won respect on the athletics scene for her courage.

But the medical implications of the gender change — the use of doping substances — required Buschbaum to quit pole vaulting, with European championship bronze medals from 1998 and 2002 the best results for the athlete with a personal best of 4.7m.

The shortly-cropped hair always made Buschbaum look boyish, but now facial hair and muscles are growing, and the voice is deeper. Buschbaum also has a new ID card as Balian Buschbaum.

“Some friends said happy birthday. As if the first testosterone shot was my second birthday. It was the start of a new life,” she said in her diary shorty before last Christmas as the treatment started.

The use of testosterone has also given him a unique outlook at the doping issue because “I am living these changes” through the use of the forbidden steroid.

“I felt like an over-bred pitbull,” Buschbaum recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonn­tagszeitung, saying he was far more aggressive in training and could jump with poles Yvonne Buschbaum only dreamt of using.

Buschbaum is keeping fit through this training for an upcoming new role as pole vault coach.

“I wanted to leave my sport behind, but I am more addicted to this drug pole vault than I thought,” he said.

The sport may stay the same but Buschbaum will be a different person once the gender change is complete.

“The journey continues,” he said in September ahead of another operation.

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