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23-year-old Blanka Vlasic (CRO) wins the Waterford Crystal European Female Athlete of the Year 2007 Print E-mail
04.10.2007
 vlasic_blanka__clearing_bar.jpg
Vlasic's laidback style makes clearing 2m+ look so easy.
Photo by Picture Alliance.
The election of Blanka Vlasic as the Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year, marks a double first since the award was inaugurated in 1993.

It is the first time that the award has gone to an athlete from Croatia and also the first time that a High Jumper has been honoured.

Vlasic's elevation to the role of Europe's top female athlete came as a result of a stunning summer in which she won all except one of her of 19 outdoor competitions, a string of victories that included winning gold at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka.

She improved her own national record four times, culminating in a top clearance of 2.07m at the DN Galan meeting in Stockholm on August 7, a performance that takes her to equal second on the European all-time list. Only the world record holder, Stefka Kostadinova (BUL), has jumped higher than Vlasic outdoors.

During the course of the season, Vlasic's almost-total dominance over the rest of the women in her event meant that she was able to move the bar up to a world record height at no less than nine of her outings.  Of her 27 attempts at 2.10m, one centimetre higher than Kostadinova's record which has now been on the books since 1987, several were very close including efforts at end-of-season meetings in Brussels and Shanghai which showed that she is getting ever more comfortable with the concept of taking her event into new territory.
 vlasic_blanka_kissing.jpg
The entertaining Croatian's victory celebrations are
becoming as talked about as her jumps.
Photo by Picture Alliance

"Every meeting this year has had the same goals for me. Of course to win, I'm always looking for a victory, but also to jump two metres or higher," said Vlasic, who turns 24 on November 8.

"However, the most important thing for me is to enjoy competing. There is no reason for me not to enjoy myself as this is my moment; this is one of my years. I'm just trying to have fun," she added.

There has been fun for the crowds around the world as well as Vlasic brings infectious enthusiasm to her competitions, showing off with a little dance after a big clearance. "In every competition, I actually have a different dance. It gives positive energy to people in the crowd. You need to spice it up," joked Vlasic.

Inevitably, becoming the first Croatian athlete to win a gold medal, indeed any medal, on the global stage since the country became independent in 1991 has made Vlasic a big celebrity in a country whose population numbers barely 4.5 million.

"In Croatia, I had lots of media space before Osaka but since then I've just been feeling one wave of big support and happiness from the people. They expected the gold from me, perhaps a little too much at times , but I'm also very glad that I showed them that they were right to believe in me and I showed everyone that I can do it.

"Lots of people stop me on the street and congratulate me. I'm happy that I've made a positive impact on them and made them happy."

As the only jumper of either sex to win two successive World Junior titles (2000 and 2002) Vlasic tasted success at a very early age, but hers has been a journey with the occasional pothole on the way.

Vlasic graduated from the Junior leagues to take gold at the 2003 European Athletics Under-23 Championships, but in the following two years she was hindered by injuries and illness.
 vlasic_blanka__clapping.jpg
The World High Jump Champion claps with the crowd
after one of her 27 attempts at the record - perhaps
her goal for 2008.
Photo by Picture Alliance

Vlasic could only finish 11th at the 2004 Olympics and worse was to come at the 2005 IAAF World Championships, when she crashed out in the qualifying rounds in Helsinki.

However, the following winter was injury free and meant she was back in fighting form to challenge the best again in 2006.

Firstly, she took a silver medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and Vlasic then finished fourth at last year's European Athletics Championships, although there was no need for any reproach at this, as she cleared 2.01m and only the brilliance of her rivals kept her off the podium in one of the most enthralling competitions in Gothenburg. 

Last year's exploits though were just a prelude for her feats in 2007.

She admitted that she felt the burden of expectation on her slim shoulders ahead of the World Championships,

"I wanted to win this gold medal so much I am so relieved. I was the favourite and I had to deal with a lot of pressure, and it is not easy to beat a strong field."

Nevertheless, Vlasic made it look relatively simple, going over 2.03m at the first time of asking (which in itself would have won her the gold medal), and then clearing 2.05m on her third attempt before again taking a tilt at the World record.

On a personal note, outside of the World Championships, one of the most memorable victories for Vlasic came at the IAAF World Athletics Final in September.

"I was very happy to win in Stuttgart because the year before I was in the hospital before the competition finished. I don't know why or how but I was feeling dizzy all afternoon and I was seeing two bars! At least this year I ended the day only seeing one bar," she reflected.

2007 has been a year of incredible achievement for the 23-year-old Croatian, it is only now as the season is drawing to a close that she is taking the time to process and enjoy her success,

"Every morning I wake up at the moment and just say ‘good morning World Champion!'"


Click here for the female European Athlete of the Year 2007 rankings list.

The male European Athlete of the Year 2007 will be announced tomorrow.


Blanka Vlasic in 2007


High Jump

1.96i  

 

1cA

Moravia

Hustopece

 20 Jan
1.98i  

 

2=

Golden HJ

Bruxelles

 27 Jan
2.00i  

 

1

Eurojump

Göteborg

 31 Jan
1.95i  

 

3




Arnstadt

 3 Feb
2.01i  

SB 

1

Iagar

Bucuresti

 9 Feb
1.97i  

 

4

Europa

Banská Bystrica

 13 Feb
1.95i  

 

2c2

GE Galan

Stockholm

 20 Feb
2.00i  

 

2




Split

 24 Feb
1.93i  

 

1q

EC

Birmingham

 2 Mar
1.92i  

 

5

EC

Birmingham

 3 Mar
2.04

NR

1

GP

Doha

 11 May
2.00  

 

1




Split

 19 May
2.00  

 

1

EAF

Bydgoszcz

 10 Jun
1.98  

 

2

Bislett

Oslo

 15 Jun
2.00  

 

1

ECp-2

Zenica

 24 Jun
2.00  

 

1

Moscow Cup

Moskva

 29 Jun
1.90  

 

1

Hanzekovic

Zagreb

 4 Jul
2.02  

 

1

Gaz

Saint-Denis

 6 Jul
2.02  

 

1

GGala

Roma

 13 Jul
2.05  NR

 

1

Madrid 2007

Madrid

 21 Jul
2.03  

 

1

Herc

Monaco

 25 Jul
2.06  NR

 

1

Olympic

Thessaloníki

 30 Jul
2.07 NR 

PB

1

DNG

Stockholm

 7 Aug
1.94  

 

1=q 

WC

Osaka

 31 Aug
2.05  

 

1

WC

Osaka

 2 Sep
2.04  

 

1

WK

Zürich

 7 Sep
2.03  

 

1

VD

Bruxelles

 14 Sep
2.00  

 

1

ISTAF

Berlin

 16 Sep
2.00  

 

1

WAF

Stuttgart

 22 Sep
2.02  

 

1

Golden GP

Shanghai

 28 Sep


 
 
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