Blanka Vlašić is one of the best high jump athletes in the history of athletics. She became the winner of two world championships, gained the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and has jumped over two metres 162 times across 103 meetings. Her significant jump of over 208 centimetres at the Hanžeković Memorial in Zagreb, on 31 August 2009, is the second best result in the history of the high jump, right next to Stefka Kostadinova’s record of 209 cm. Blanka has been voted Croatia’s best athlete no less than six times, twice best European athlete and in 2010 she even won the title of World Sportswoman of the Year. That same year, she won the World Indoor Championships in Doha, European Championships in Barcelona and the Continental Cup held in Split, and the IAAF officially declared Blanka as the world’s best athlete.
Blanka Vlašić was born in Split, Croatia, on 8 November 1983. She is the oldest child in a sports family: her mother Venera was involved in cross country skiing, basketball and athletics and father Josko’s event was decathlon, in which he still holds Croatia’s national record.
She got her name after the city of Casablanca in Morocco, where her father won the gold medal at the 1983 Mediterranean Games. She has three brothers: Marin used to play basketball and now he is an active discus thrower and Nikola (aged 17) is on the national U-21 football team and one of the best first team players of the Hajduk Football Club.
Blanka’s sports talent was noticed very early. When she was only 7 years old, she got involved in athletics through her father, who was a coach in an athletics club. She had great speed and coordination. She tried most athletics events.
Her above-average height was an additional reason to choose high jump as the event that she would specialize in and pursue later on. In 1997, Bojan Marinović was included in her coaching team as an expert for high jump technique. He is also a good friend and an important piece of the puzzle in Blanka’s development. Her father Joško is in charge of every other aspect of her training process and he also takes care of his daughter’s sports and social obligations. Throughout elementary school (in which she was an A student), her father tailored all her training to her biological abilities without the goal of making her the best she could be in the shortest time possible. Her first noticed result was in 1999. She placed 8th at the World Youth Championships in Poland. That year, she shared the 2nd spot in the Under-17 world rankings with 3 more girls.
The following year was an Olympic year and Blanka would forever remember it with a smile because that was something really magical for her. She was 16 and she had an incredible series of good results, including improving her personal best from 1.80m to a world class 1.93m, which was an A norm for the Olympics in Sydney. That kind of progress was rarely seen in the history of world athletics. She finished 17th with a mark of 1.92m as the youngest athlete at the Olympic Games. One month later, she became the Junior World Champion in Chile clearing 1.91m. She finished the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton in a great 6th place with a mark of 1.94m. That year, she finished 5th at the Goodwill Games that took place in Brisbane. She also won the gold medal at the Mediterranean Games in Tunis. In May 2002, she graduated high school with a 5.0 average (top A student with maximum points in Croatia) and received the title of a Pharmaceutical Technician. Blanka placed 5th at the 2002 European Championships in Munich. With a mark of 1.96m, she defended her title of the world’s best junior athlete in Kingston that year. After that, she decided to turn professional for the next two years. That decision helped her improve her training process and she already saw the result of that decision in the indoor part of the 2003 season, when she improved her personal best with a jump of over 1.98m (4 cm better than her Croatian record back then). She finished 4th at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham. The season started with a great series of results: she won at the Golden League meeting in Paris with 1.99m, and she cleared 2m at the Hanžeković Memorial in Zagreb on 7 June. She became the U23 European Champion with a mark of 1.98m in the Polish town of Bydgoszcz, and cleared 2.01m and finished 2nd at the Golden League meeting in Zurich. At the end of the season, she ranked 4th in the IAAF high jump rankings.
The Olympic year of 2004 started great. She won the bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest. She was extremely good in the summer part of the season, and at the beginning of August, she cleared 2.03m in Ljubljana. These results rightly raised hopes for the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens. Unfortunately, everything started going downhill from then. She got the flu and her shape deteriorated drastically. She managed to make the finals in Athens but there, she only had the strength for one jump. Soon after the Olympics, she was diagnosed with a hyperthyroid condition. Everything changed then. She started to get tired easily; she didn’t have the patience to stay anywhere longer than a few minutes. Everything was questionable then, not just her carrier but the quality of her life, too. She tried to bring her condition to an acceptable level with conservative methods, but without any success. Finally, surgery was the only chance for her to continue her carrier and normal life. She had pituitary surgery in March 2005. Recovery took a few months and it was very hard and exhausting, but successful. In June the same year, she managed to clear 1.95m. She would remember that day as her new birthday. 2006 was a fairy tale year. Blanka flew over 2 metres 13 times during that year. She jumped her personal bests of 2.05m indoors and 2.03m outdoors. She won silver at the Indoor Championships in Moscow. Unfortunately, even her 2.01m on the first attempt wasn’t enough for a medal at the European Championships in Sweden.
The summer season started really impressively. She had 5 wins and the same number of jumps over 2m in just 6 competitions. Her mark of 2.04m in Doha made her the world leader in 2004. In 2007, she had 20 jumps over 2m and a wonderful series of competitions: Paris 1st place (2.02m), Roma 1st place (2.02m), Madrid 1st place (2.05m), Monte Carlo 1st place (2.03m), Thessaloniki 1st place (2.06m), Stockholm 1st place (2.07m), gold medal at the World Championships in Osaka (2.05m), Zurich 1st place (2.04m), Brussels 1st place (2.03m), Berlin 1st place (2.00m) and Shanghai 1st place (2.02m). The EAA awarded Blanka as the best female athlete in 2007. The IAAF selected her 2.07m as the world’s best performance in 2007. Blanka finished all her 24 competitions in the Olympic year of 2008 with jumps of over 2m, the height jumped 41 times. She won 22 times and finished second twice. The gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, silver medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing, five wins in the Golden League competitions and winning the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart marked the magic year, in which her average height was 2.029m. In her first competition in 2009, in Rijeka, Blanka completed an impressive number of 100 jumps over 2m in 63 contests.
The 2009 outdoor season brought a new gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin, a new national record and world all-time second best result of 2.08m at the Grand Prix Zagreb 2009. The year of 2010 was filled with great success. Her jump of 2.06m brought her the World Indoor Champion title in Doha. She had an impressive array of seven out of seven wins in the Diamond League, became the European Champion in Barcelona, and topped it off with the win at the Continental Cup in Split, where she jumped her season’s best in front of her home crowd. Finally, the IAAF, and European journalists later on, voted her the world’s and Europe’s best athlete and shortlisted her for the Laureus World Sports Academy Award. Although Blanka had many problems with her left Achilles tendon in 2011, she still won the Diamond League and the silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu. In February 2012, she had an operation on her ankle and Achilles tendon.
Due to complications during rehabilitation, she had to cancel her appearance at the Olympic Games in London. Despite her health issues during 2013 and 2014, she kept coming back to competitions, clearing 2m three times, but her real comeback was at the Beijing World Championships in August 2015, where she won the silver medal. Now she has new strength and hope and she is ready to prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio.
Wishing for an autograph?
All you need to do is send your address and one postaged envelope to Blanka at:
ASK Split (for Blanka Vlasic)
Ulica Hrvatske mornarice 10
21000 Split, Hrvatska
and your autograph will be in the mail. If you don’t want to wait, download the printable version: