High Jumper Blanka Vlasic Pulls Out of Tokyo Olympics

Daniela Rogulj

March 10, 2020 – Blanka Vlasic, one of the greatest Croatian female athletes of all time, will not compete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Jutarnji List reports that the Split athlete and her expert staff informed the Croatian Olympic Committee that Blanka would not fight for her third Olympic medal in Japan and that she would be removed from the list of Olympic candidates. Recall, Vlasic won the silver medal in 2008 in Beijing and the bronze in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

The two-time world champion (2007 Osaka and 2009 Berlin) in the high jump and the second-best of all time with a jump of 208 centimeters (one centimeter less than the 1987 world record of Stefka Kostadinova) has not jumped since the high jump finals at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Her years of struggles with injuries did not allow her to jump at a stable level continually, so even though she is improving and getting better, she is still not ready to return to competition.

“Blanka’s condition is much better,” said her father and coach Josko Vlasic. 

“The bone is no longer inflamed, the Achilles tendon is not yet well, but her general condition is fine and she is training. We estimate that continuous jumps over two meters are not a reality at this time. She will continue her career anyway, but now she does not want to sell her reputation and does not want to jump below two meters. We sent a letter to the Croatian Olympic Committee so that they could act on it.”

This will be the second Olympic Games Vlasic will miss (she also missed London 2012) since she made her debut in Sydney in 2000. Of course, this news is not unexpected given that she has not been able to recover 100% over the past three years and could not fully commit to the high jump. It is miraculous, however, that she does not consider leaving athletics after her continuous injuries, which have followed her from a very early stage in her career. Not to mention that problems with her Achilles tendon started the moment she was at the height of her career. In 2010, Vlasic was selected as the world’s best athlete at a gala ceremony in Monte Carlo.

A year earlier, she defended the world title in Berlin and flew over 208 centimeters at the Hanzekovic rally in Zagreb. That year, when she was selected as the world’s best female athlete, she won the only European outdoor title in Barcelona. Her dominance did not end there. However, unfortunately, in 2011, the agony with her Achilles tendon resulted in less frequent appearances.

That year, she managed to win silver after jumping 203-centimeters at the World Cup in Daegu, losing gold to Maria Kuchina (later Lasickene) due to multiple attempts. In January 2012, she had surgery on her Achilles tendon, but an infection occurred, and three months later, she had to go under the knife again. She had to miss the London Games and it was certainly not psychologically easy to bear. Her memory of the silver medal from Beijing was still fresh. Recall, Tia Hellebaut sensationally jumped 205 centimeters, just like Blanka, but the Belgian celebrated for fewer attempts.

Since then, it has more or less been a constant battle with her Achilles tendon. When she healed the one on her left leg, the problem moved to the right. Even so, Blanka still prepared for competitions and even won silver in Beijing at the 2015 World Cup and the bronze in Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, three female athletes jumped 197 centimeters, and as it goes with the number of tries is counted, she won the bronze. The gold went to Ruth Beitia, and Mirela Demirov took the silver. It is also worth pointing out that at the Athens Games, Blanka experienced problems with her thyroid, which she later resolved with surgery.

It remains to be seen when she will return, because Blanka is not yet ready to say goodbye. At least at 36 years old, we have no doubt that Blanka will go out in style.

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