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September 12, 2010Posted by on
I never did like Blanka Vlašić. I found her penchant for celebratory dances too smug for my tastes. She had that air of dominance around her when she competes. And dominate her event she did, winning meet-after-meet in a forgettable string of victories. Although she lost out to Tia Hellebaut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Vlasic was without a doubt the most formidable female high jumper of our time.
Perhaps it was her sheer dominance that turned me off. I rooted for lower-key jumpers like Ariane Friedrich and Emma Green, in the same way as I cheered for the Utah Jazz against the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
In a sense, Vlasic was the Yelena Isinbayeva of women’s high jump.
Like the psychologically-tired Isinbayeva, something was amiss with Vlasic during last March’s World Indoor Championships in Doha. The Croatian seemed far from her usual smug self, failing to make a show out the high jumping spectacle.
Whilst reading about the write-up on Vlasic prior to the IAAF Continental Cup in Split, Croatia, I learned about the horrid circumstances of prior to the Doha games. It turned out that a fake sex video featuring someone who resembles Vlasic was circulated. Being the private and quiet person Blanka is, she was naturally devastated. A crisis of confidence ensued, threatening her promising career.
Thanks to her mental toughness, Vlasic persevered against these off-track distractions.
In the same IAAF article, Vlasic said: ““Fifteen years ago I competed in Poljud (the track stadium in her home town of Split) for the first time, in an empty stadium. I asked my dad if it would ever be possible for me to compete here with a full stadium. Of course, he didn’t know the answer.”
When Vlasic won a few days later, I felt happy for her. For an athlete to win in front of friends and family at one’s cherished home track – now that’s truly priceless.
Instead of the arrogance she usually displayed, she exhibited a more magnanimous human side this time as she sobbed tears of joy during her celebratory lap.
Bravo, Blanka! Bravo!