Split, CroatiaPoster girl Blanka Vlasic’s appearance in the High Jump was expected to first pack, and then bring down, the proverbial house. Nearly 30,000 vociferous fans did turn out, and the double World champion didn’t disappoint, capping her starring role with a competition record of 2.05m in what will go down as one of the most memorable moments in IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup history.
“This today made everything worth it,” Split’s most famous resident, drained from the emotions of the day, said. “I could retire tomorrow and I would have no regrets.”
Still just 26, she of course has no plans to hang up her spikes just yet. There are still a few accolades missing from the Croatian’s massive trophy case, but none may ever quite match the emotions and adrenaline that fueled the second highest jumper in history today.
Met with a massive roar when she first appeared on the track, the atmosphere grew louder and more electric, building with each of her attempts. And she was ready. Drama aside, Vlasic indeed did save her best performance of the year for last.
Opening at 1.88m, Vlasic sailed over 1.92m, 1.95m, 2.00m and 2.02m all with her first attempt. With the victory well in hand – runner-up Emma Green topped out at 1.95m to give Team Europe maximum points – Vlasic had the bar raised to 2.05m, a notch above Silvia Costa’s 2.04m competition record set 21 years ago.
Here too Vlasic sailed clear with her first try. Nudging it slightly with her calves, the bar shook but didn’t drop. The stadium exploded.
“It was a perfect crowd,” Vlasic said. “I’m so proud to be part of it, and so proud that the crowd supported everybody, in all the events. It was just fantastic.”
But she wasn’t finished. She had the bar raised to a would-be 2.10m World record. She hadn't taken a stab at the Stefka Kostadinova's 23-year-old mark in a year, and certainly wouldn't have another opportunity at home any time soon. It was the least she could do. Her first and third attempts were well off the mark but her second was a solid effort.
“I was so happy to jump at (the World record) again, I missed (trying) it so much,” Vlasic said.
The leap added two centimetres to her season’s best, and tied American rival Chaunte Lowe for the 2010 world lead. It was also her 11th victory in 13 meets this season, and one she and most of the fans on hand, won't soon forget.
Emotions were running immensely high for Vlasic, whose outing here fulfilled a dream she’s had since competing at an empty Poljud Stadium when she was 15 years old. At one point during her lap of honour, Vlasic dropped to her knees on the track, tears streaming, her face falling onto the Croatian flag. Hers weren’t the only wet eyes in the house.
“You can’t imagine what this means to me,” Vlasic told the crowd. “It a moment that my family and I will never forget.”