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Ten to watch: Blanka Vlasic

Blanka Vlasic

By Ollie Williams

Split-born high jumper Blanka Vlasic is as close to a certainty for Olympic gold as it is possible to find.

It is possible that Vlasic may slip up under the intense pressure of the Games. But the 24-year-old has enjoyed dominance in her event for over a year, finishing first in 18 out of 19 outdoor meetings in 2007.

The crowd-pleasing Croatian is known for her celebrations each time she clears a height.

"I don't rank competitions - every single one is the Olympics to me," she says. But having missed out on medals in Sydney and Athens, Vlasic will be determined to reach the top in Beijing.


Born: 8 November 1983, Split, Croatia
Trains: Split
Career highlights: World outdoor gold (Osaka 2007) and indoor gold (Valencia 2008)
Personal best: 2.07m, Croatian record


2008 form: Vlasic is without doubt the leading female high jumper in the world today. The IAAF's top eight high jump performances for 2008 are all hers, and she has spent much of the past year building up to several attempts at the world record.

Blanka Vlasic
Vlasic believes she is "making her own history" by dominating her sport
Rivals: Germany's Ariane Friedrich posted 2.03m in 2008, a clear 3cm behind Vlasic, to become her nearest rival on recent performances. Vlasic will also have to watch out for Russian duo Elena Slesarenko and Anna Chicherova.

How she could win: It will be a considerable shock if Vlasic does not win. Speaking about her world record attempts, she recently told US broadcaster NBC: "I need to be in good shape, able to do lot of jumps of high intensity. Regarding technique, there is nothing special I need to change. It's more about circumstances and my physical ability in that moment." The same applies for the Olympics.

What she says: "Competing helps me to polish my shape. It will be much easier in Beijing for me, now that I have had a lot of high jumps during this first part of the season."

What you say: "I'm tipping Blanka Vlasic for the women's high jump - but I doubt I'd get very good odds!"
lairdtim on the BBC Olympics Blog

Blanka Vlasic
Vlasic has had numerous attempts at the 21-year-old high jump world record
Sporting high: A run of five meetings in summer 2007: Vlasic attempted the world record in each, picked up World Championship gold, and extended her winning streak.

Sporting low: Vlasic still trains inside a former factory premises in Croatia, which lacks top class track and field facilities. "At this moment an athletic gymnasium is necessary for us," she admits. "It will serve not only me, but other athletes as well."

In action: 21-23 August
Women's high jump qualifying takes place on Thursday 21 August, with the final two days later.


Life before sport: Blanka was always likely to follow in the illustrious sporting footsteps of her parents. Her mother was a basketball player and cross-country skier, while her father - and, until recently, coach - was a decathlete. She was already competing in her first Olympics by the age of 16.

Blanka grew up alongside three brothers - "I am the only girl in the family so everyone pampered me," she says. "I believe the reason for my early independence is sport, through which I learnt at an early stage to take care of myself and be disciplined."

Hero worship: Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova, gold medallist at Atlanta '96, has held the women's high jump world record since 1987. It is one of the oldest records left in track and field.

"Stefka is the most complete high jumper of all time," says Vlasic. "She has an unparalleled list of honours and her brightness was, and still is, immense. I want to be like her. She made her own history, and I am making my own history."

Blanka Vlasic
Another one bites the dust - Vlasic strikes a pose at a meeting in Zurich
Most likely to: Have to answer questions about her unusual name. Blanka is named after the the Moroccan city of Casablanca, where her father, Josko, was competing in the Mediterranean Games around the time of her birth.

Least likely to: Quietly sit back down when she breaks the world record. Vlasic's celebratory dance moves on the back of each successful jump are fast becoming legendary within the sport, though she only began doing them at Rome 2007. "Last year in Rome I felt very relaxed, and I guess that's why it happened. Rome is one of my favourite meets."

Did you know? Blanka wishes she were shorter. The 6'4" fashionista would like to have smaller feet, and so fit into a wider variety of shoes.

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see also
Vlasic jumps to 31st straight win
05 Jul 08 |  Athletics

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