Blanka Vlasic - Croatian Athlete, Gold Medalist and High Jump Superstar
A little bit about Blanka
Born and raised in Split, Croatia, she has a tall lanky body which particularly suits her to high jumping. Her father recognized her talent, and she began training at an early age. Being *also* physically suited to basketball, which tends to be more lucrative ($$), she instead preferred to compete in individual sports, track and field events, particularly the high jump.
At age 15 she began competing internationally. At her first competition, she reached a personal best of 1.80 and later, a full 13 centimeters higher: 1.93 at age 16.
In 2000, at the Sydney Olympics, she represented Croatia at the young and tender age of 16. Although it was a bit much for her, she excelled at the competition for younger people: the same year she competed and won the 2000 World Junior Championships with a 1.91 meter jump!
When she reached 1.94 in 2001, promoted Ed Gordon predicted her international stardom, which was in effect just around the corner. The same year, she took the Gold Medal at the 2001 Mediterranean Games, as her father did a short 18 years before (in a different event)!
She is the daughter of former Croatian decathlete, Josko Vlasic, a former Croatian record holder. Blanka was named after the town of Casablanca. This was the site where her father won a prestigious gold medal at the 1983 Mediterranean Games around the time of her birth.
Blanka is the oldest of four children - three younger brothers follow her. Her entire family is athletic. Her mother, Venera (like Venus) played basketball and excelled at cross country skiing.
Blanka is in good company
Split, Croatia has been dubbed the city of athletes. No one exactly knows why. Is it the sea, the warm temperate sun or the neighboring protective mountain range? Whatever the reason for this phenomenon, she is among many, many Olympic medalists and champions. Here are a few who make their home in Split:
Goran Ivanisevic - gold medal winner and Wimbledon champion (2001 - Men's Singles)
Duje Draganje - an Olympic silver medalist in swimming, also lives in Split.
Jočko Vlašić -Blanka's father and coach is also a gold medalist in his own right
Dražen Petrović, who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 28, was among the first European imported to play professionally for American basketball teams. He hailed from the Dalmatian city of Šibenik, a few kilometers north of Split.
Important Events in Blanka's Life
- November 8, 1983 - Blanka Vlašić born in Split to Venera and Josko Vlašić
- 2000 First international competition - Sydney Olympic Games
- 2000 First victory - World Junior Championships - 1,91 m
- 2001 World Championships in Edmondton, Alberta Canada - 6th place 1,94 m
- 2001 Mediterranean Games - first gold medal
- 2002 European Indoor Championships - 1,92 m
- 2002 World Juniors - 1,96 m
- 2003 Linz - 1,98 m
- 2003 World Indoor Championships - 4th place
- 2003 IAFF Golden League Event - winner - 1,99 m
- 2003 IAFF Grand Prix Zagreb - 2,00 m
- 2003 European Athletes Under 23 - gold medal winner
- 2003 IAFF Zurich Grand Prix - 2,01 m
With low qualifying heights and a feeling of lethargy, Blanka was found to be suffering from a thyroid problem, which kept her out of commission from 2004-2005. She did not participate in the Athens Olympics.
In 2006, she bounced back to hit a new high, 2.05 meters. She took the silver medal. Of course, she admitted, she wanted the gold medal (which went to Russian Yelena Sleserenko), she was also satisfied with the silver. "...when I remember one year ago I was in hospital, it is great."
Breakfast of Champions
Blanka became a world champion with her 2.05 meter high jump. She is the second highest rated high jumper in the world, after Stefka Kostodinovka. She has made repeated attempts to overturn the 2.10 meter record, narrowly missing.
In 2010 she became the first Croatian and first high jumper to receive the honor of female European Athlete of the Year. She has also received the IAAF World Athlete of the Year twice, in 2007 and 2010.
Blanka belongs to an elite club with only 54 members called Champions for Peace. The purpose of this club is to fight for peace through sport. Organizationally based in Monaco, its parent organization is called Peace and Sport. It functions internationally.