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Vlasic announces retirement at the age of 37

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One of the greatest high jumpers in history, Blanka Vlasic from Croatia has formally announced her retirement from athletics at the age of 37.

Vlasic dominated the event in the mid-to-late 2000s, winning back-to-back world titles in 2007 and 2009 and the European title in 2010. The Croatian was a prolific performer in her peak years, clearing 2.00m or higher in 64 competitions between 2007 and 2009.

A prolific junior who also won back-to-back world U20 titles in 2000 and 2002, Vlasic cleared 2.00m for the first time at the age of 19 on home soil in Zagreb in 2003. Her 2.01m clearance for silver at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing was her 106th and last competition at 2.00m or higher.

Vlasic narrowly fell short of the Olympic title in 2008 when she finished second to Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut on countback despite clearing 2.05m but she unexpectedly added to her medal haul eight years later, defying all odds to win bronze “literally with one healthy leg” in Rio de Janeiro.

Vlasic hasn’t competed since those Olympic Games in 2016 but the Croatian, who was named European Athlete of the Year in 2007 and 2010, still harboured aspirations of returning to the sport up until very recently.

In a statement to announce her retirement, Vlasic said: “Before I won bronze in Rio, many told me to give up, as I have already done a lot. But if I had listened to them, I would not have won another Olympic medal, a medal that is so special to me because I won it literally with one healthy leg. That competition pulled everything out of me, even what I didn’t know I had.

“The years after brought innumerable rehabilitation treatments, hope, then disappointment, and so on indefinitely. Yet, although it would be clear at first glance to an outside observer that it was time to dedicate myself to new life challenges, the decision had to be mine. 

“Before it came, I went through all the stages of grief, and for me, it was the hardest period of my career. And only after all, on a very ordinary and peaceful day, it came to my heart: ‘It's over.’ I knew it was time, and I was completely calm. 

“On the contrary, I felt a relief that I would never have had if I had 'gone over the line’ and stopped in vain when many thought I should.”