Now, if there is one athlete who can be called an “outstanding favourite” for winning gold in Beijing that is certainly Blanka Vlasic. The Croatian is not only the reigning World Indoor and outdoor champion, she has been undefeated since June 2007 and has even attempted to break Stefka Kostadinova’s 21-year-old World record of 2.09m no fewer than 36 times.
With a personal best 2.07m, a season’s best 2.06m and an incredible eight clearances at 2.03m or higher in the last four months, the 1.90m tall who is also on course to win the AF Golden League Jackpot, has only one rival going into Beijing: herself.
Indeed Vlasic has shown visible signs of fatigue in her last appearances in Rome, Paris and Stockholm leaving her with no choice but to withdraw from London and go back home and get ready for the Olympics.
But one can trust Vlasic for returning at her very best in the Olympic capital especially after her dramatic exit at the Athens Olympic Games four years ago. Unable to clear 1.91m, Vlasic was inconsolable and couldn’t hold back tears of distress. It was later discovered that she was suffering from a respiratory infection.
A trio of athletes will try and challenge the Croatian’s hold at the event and that includes defending Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko who had soared to a personal best and Olympic record 2.06m to secure the most precious of all medals in Athens 2004. Slesarenko, who has also won two World Indoor Championships, finished just outside the medals at the Osaka World Championships but with a 2.03m clearance at the recent Russian Championships, has proved she should not be ruled out of a title defence.
European Cup winner Ariane Friedrich who has soared over 2 metres or more on five occasions this summer will certainly have to match her best of 2.03m if she wants to reach the podium. However, the German champion still has to prove she can cope with the major championships pressure as she finished a poor eighth at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia where she was expected to challenge Vlasic.
The third athlete at 2.03m this season is Russian champion Anna Chicherova, the equal silver medallist in Osaka 2007 and a customary figure in High Jump finals.
Spain’s Ruth Beitia and Tia Hellebaut of Belgium are the only other athletes who have cleared 2 metres this summer but it’s very likely that they will need a better performance should they aspire to make it to the podium.
Italian record holder and a superb joint silver medallist at Osaka last year, Antonietta Di Martino only has a 1.97m to her credit this year but the 30-year-old can boast a PB of 2.03m and as such should be in the mix for a share of the cake.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF