Serbian high jumper Angelina Topic (© Dan Vernon)
While grateful to her parents for paving her way into the sport, Serbia’s Angelina Topic will use the World Athletics U20 Championships as an opportunity to write the next chapter in her own story of sporting success.
With 2009 world triple jump bronze medallist Biljana as her mother and multiple high jump medallist Dragutin as her father, Topic grew up with the athletics stadium as her playground. While she enjoys competing in a range of events, for this week's global competition in Nairobi she is following in the footsteps of her father.
“I’m really grateful to be here, it’s a really amazing feeling seeing all your hard work actually paying off,” says Topic, who secured a smooth qualification through to Sunday’s high jump final during the first round of competition on Friday (20). “I am going to give it my best shot. What happens, happens.”
Still aged just 16, Topic has added seven centimetres to her high jump best in 2021, progressing from the 1.81m she cleared in September last year to her PB of 1.88m achieved in Istanbul in June. That result in Turkey proved to be a milestone in the 1.84m-tall high jumper’s progression.
“My father told me you are officially a high jumper when you can jump your own height,” she smiles.
Dragutin himself is a former world U20 champion, having broken the world U20 record with a jump of 2.37m in 1990 which still stands as the age-group record today.
“My father is a big figure to me and it is awesome that I got some of his talent,” says Topic. “Both my parents were athletes for a long time. It is really a great feeling to somehow continue what they started and also create my own image and show the world my best.
“Even when I didn’t do the high jump I was always watching the Olympics or some other events and the high jump just looked so cool and I always wanted to do it. It’s even cooler when you are actually jumping. The emotions in the run up are incredible, indescribable.”
Reflecting on her early memories, she says: “I’ve been in the stadium my whole life. Since I was young my parents would always take me to training with them. I would go with them on training camps and while my dad was jumping or coaching my mum, I would just run around the stadium and stick to the high jump mats and that made me fall in love with the sport. In 2013 my parents opened an athletics club, which I still participate in and compete for.
“My first discipline was actually hurdles and I also did the throws. After a few years of training, maybe when I was 12 or 13, I could call myself a high jumper.”
She hasn’t ruled out returning to the triple jump in future, however. “I actually think I could do something in that discipline maybe, one day," she says. "But right now, I like high jump the best.”
Topic only turned 16 in July but so far this year she has already claimed national titles both indoors and outdoors, won Balkan U20 gold and made the final of the European U20 Championships in Tallinn. The World U20 Championships has given her the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time and she is relishing these experiences.
“This year has been the year that I have travelled the most, that high jump took me to the most places,” she says. “It is a big change, but I like it. Sometimes it is hard, it creates some pressure, but you get adjusted to it as the time passes.
“It’s a big year for me. Hopefully it will get bigger. It will definitely bring experience and create something for the future.”
She is determined to make a name for herself and show her own style. Reminiscent of Italy’s Olympic champion Gianmarco Tamberi, who sometimes competes with half a shaved beard, Topic will be competing with one styled eyebrow and one natural. “When I was at the European Championships I was doing my eyebrows and I just cut it!” she says.
“I want to create my own name, to be someone. I would like people to know me from this, so when they hear my name they would think: ‘That’s the high jumper’. Of course, I would love to participate in the Olympics one day, if that is possible.”
The next step on her journey is Sunday’s world U20 final.
“It has been unreal and indescribable,” she says of her experience in Nairobi so far. “This is one of the biggest moments in my life. I can’t even describe what I am feeling.
“I am going to give my best at this competition, as always. Just being here is a gold medal to me. But an actual gold medal would be nice!”
Jess Whittington for World Athletics