Although Serbian high jumper Dragutin Topic had won gold at the 1990 IAAF World Junior Championships in Plovdiv with what is still today the World Junior record at 2.37, he was competing with a Yugoslavian vest.
As such the name of Ivana Spanovic, who won tonight’s long jump final with 6.61, will go in the history books as the first Serbian ever to win a gold medal at this competition.
“Yes I know I am the first. For me it was an extra motivation to try and become the first. It was inspirational,” said Spanovic who previously this year had set a national junior record 6.65.
“It feels great to be the winner. I wanted this first place and now I have it.”
Born in Zrenianin, the third largest city in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, Spanovic first got acquainted with athletics at the age of 7 inspired and supported by her mother Vesna, who was herself a 6.14 long jumper.
“I train very hard and for me it is not a surprise to get this title. I had jumped 6.65 before so I knew I was capable of jumping this far again.”
An excellent sprinter, she set a 100m national youth record 12.02 in 2006, Spanovic seems to have always been immersed in a sporting environment. Her father is a former club level basket ball and football player while her 21-year-old brother Namania is a promising football player.
“He’s very good!” she says of him proudly.
Part of Serbia’s biggest ever team of 26 athletes, Spanovic said her experience helped her keep her cool when her lead was overtaken in round three.
“This is not my first World Championships, so I know how to handle the pressure,” she explained. “I was never really worried.”
On the road to Beijing
And if you take a look at her resume it is quite impressive for an 18-year-old! Spanovic was seventh at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, before taking part in the European senior Indoor Championships in Birmingham, the World Youth Championships in Ostrava and the European Junior Championships in Hengelo last year.
She did not advance past the qualification rounds in either Birmingham or Hengelo but claimed silver in Ostrava. She had also competed in the 100m at the World Youth Championships in Marrakech aged 15!
And now her season is far from over as she heads back home on Monday for a three-week preparation to return to Beijing and take part in her first Olympic Games.
“I have the B Standard so yes I will be in Beijing. I am now going home to prepare for the Games. I don’t know what to expect there. I hope to achieve a similar result as today and if it’s good enough for the final then great. If it isn’t then it’s good anyway!”
Spanovic who trains seven days a week says she has no time at all for hobbies. “The rare time off that I have I spend it with my family and my friends!”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF