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Blanka Vlašić is an athlete competing in track and field at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for Croatia, making her fourth appearance of her storied career at the Games. The two-time world champion, who has the second most 2-meter jumps in history, will be seeking her first gold medal after winning silver in Beijing.

In December 2011, Blanka Vlašić announced that she was parting ways with longtime manager Harald Edletzberger and signed with Daniel Wessfeldt, a Swede who represents a number of leading jumpers and pole vaulters in Europe. Through that connection, Vlašić was able to join Wessfeldt clients Emma Green-Tregaro and Ebba Jungmark at their 2012 training camp in South Africa.

Vlašić opted to forgo the indoor season for the first time in her career in 2011 as she focused on her university studies. She got off to a slow-ish start to the outdoor season and then suffered a left hamstring injury that continued to hamper her results. By the late summer, the injury worsened to the point that she contemplated dropping out of the World Championships. She opted to compete and wound up winning silver behind resurgent Russian Anna Chicherova.

Vlašić's unbeaten run through the Diamond League plus victories at the European, World Indoor, and Continental Cup Championships in 2010 earned the Croatian a slew of postseason awards. She was named World Athlete of the Year by the IAAF, track and field's governing body; World Athlete of the Year by the International Sports Press Association; European Athlete of the Year by the European Association of Sports Journalists; and Athlete of the Year by the Split Sports Association. Vlašić finished runner-up to American skier Lindsey Vonn for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award.

These days, Vlašić can't seem to avoid questions about when she will break the world record. What she has trouble comprehending is how those outside her inner circle can so easily expect her to take attempts at heights no woman has ever cleared as if she were a wind-up toy. "The expectations are always big for every competition," Vlašić said. "People just think that it's easy for me, but it's not. It's a lot of preparation psychologically and physically. Outside the competition there is the travel and the recovery. Week after week of this is definitely not an easy life. When people start expecting me to win time in and time out, and then start talking about world records, sometimes I ask myself if they think I'm an alien or something."

With Germany's Ariane Friedrich injured most of the season, a new rival to Vlašić's supremacy emerged in American Chaunte Lowe, who beat Vlašić at Grand Prix meets in Ostrava and Barcelona, and held the top mark in the world — the American record 2.05m/6-8¾ she jumped at the USA Outdoor Championships — from June until September. It was a new experience for Vlašić, one that left her questioning her own ability. By the time the European Championships rolled around in July, she was an emotional wreck. Secluded in her room on the 21st floor of her hotel in Barcelona, Vlašić waged some tearful battles with her own mind. "For the first time, I am really afraid," she wrote in her blog. In the end, Vlašić conquered her demons and earned Croatia's first ever gold medal at Europeans. It was a victory which served as a springboard to her becoming the only athlete to win all seven of their Diamond League competitions.

In the week before her victory at the 2010 World Indoor Championships in Doha, rumor spread back home of Vlašić's appearance on a sex tape. Those in Vlašić's inner-circle, including her father, tried to keep the story quiet, but she learned about the embarrassing case of mistaken identity two days before the meet. "When that fake movie came out, I was really stressed, crying like a baby for hours," she said. "It hurts, of course, when you realize that there's someone out there who wants to make your life miserable. But, I was more upset for my family than myself. I'm always prepared for some low kicks now and then, but the people around me shouldn't have to go through that."

When Ariane Friedrich beat Vlašić at the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting to open the 2009 Golden League season, fans of the sport began pointing to the summer and another showdown on Friedrich's home turf at the World Championships. The marquee matchup came to fruition and did not disappoint. With all eyes on the two prime combatants, many people lost sight of Chicherova, the Beijing Olympic bronze medalist with a personal-best of 2.04m. In fact, it was Chicherova who was winning this competition in its latter stages. The Russian cleared 2.02m on her first try, while Vlašić needed a second-attempt clearance and Friedrich a dramatic third try to get over the bar. The turning point of the competition came when the bar was raised to 2.04m. All three remaining women missed their opening attempts at the height. After Chicherova missed her second, Vlašić soared over the bar cleanly. Friedrich then missed her second attempt and Chicherova missed her third, leaving Friedrich down to her last chance. Her only option at that point was to make an all-in play for the gold, to raise the bar to 2.06m and hope that she cleared it on her final try and Vlašić missed three times. Friedrich got her torso over the bar, but just barely knocked it off with her heels, giving Vlašić the win.

Losing at the Olympics and in the Golden League were "disappointing" for Vlašić, but she reached her emotional breaking point during 2009 when she she managed only a fifth-place finish at the European Indoor Championships in Torino. "It was a consequence of what happened in Beijing and what happened in Brussels and I just couldn't take it," Vlašić said. "I had a complete breakdown." She contemplated quitting the sport, but had a change of heart during a moment of solitude while in Los Angeles for an adidas photo shoot.

In 2008, Vlašić went to the Beijing Olympics riding a 34-meet winning streak and seemingly cloaked by an aura of invincibility. But in the final, all it took was one slip-up, a single missed attempt at 2.05m/6-8¾ and the gold went to Tia Hellebaut of Belgium. Vlašić picked up the pieces, and six days later won at the Weltklasse Zurich meeting, her fifth in the former Golden League which awarded a share of a $1 million jackpot to athletes who finished unbeaten in the six-meet series. But she was beginning to run on empty. In the finale at the Memorial van Damme in Brussels, she was beaten by Germany's Ariane Friedrich, who was fresher having not qualified for the Olympic final or competed in Zurich.

Vlašić finished fourth in the high jump final at the 2006 European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, becoming the first athlete not to win a medal with a jump higher than 2.00m/6-6 ¾. At that meet, she cleared 2.01m/6-7, but needed more attempts than bronze medalist, Kajsa Bergqvist.

During the 2007 season, cleared 2.00m/6-6 ¾. In 17 of her 19 outdoor competitions, winning 18 of them including her first World Championship gold in Osaka. Vlašić's only loss came early in the season at the first IAAF Golden League meeting. Had she won there, Vlašić would have shared in the $1 million Golden League jackpot that was split between Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and American sprinter Sanya Richards.

In early October 2007, the European Athletic Association named Vlašić female European Athlete of the Year based on the combined votes of a panel of experts, a group of journalists and the public. She is the first Croatian athlete and the first high jumper ever to win the award. Vlašić finished third in the voting for world female athlete of the year by Track & Field News, finishing behind Ethiopian runner Meseret Defar and Isinbayeva.

Vlašić's winning mark of 2.07m/6-9½ at the 2007 Stockholm Grand Prix is the second-best mark of all-time, trailing only the world outdoor record of 2.09m/6-10¼ set in 1987 by Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova. Vlašić's prolific season, in which she jumped in no fewer than 28 meets, also saw her rack up huge victory margins over rivals Yelena Slesarenko of Russia (9-1), Antonietta DiMartino of Italy (7-2), and Anna Chicherova of Russia (11-1).

Vlašić was certainly not brought along slowly as a young competitor. One year after finishing eighth at the World Youth Championships, she competed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney at the age of 16, finishing eighth in her qualifying heat at 1.92m/6-3 1/2. A month later, Vlašić won the first of two World Junior Championships. She competed at the Olympics again in Athens in 2004, finishing 11th in the final at 1.89m/6-2 1/4

Blanka was named after Casablanca, the Moroccan city where her father, Josko, competed at the 1983 Mediterranean Games around the time of her birth. Josko, a former decathlete whose personal best still stands as the Croatian national record, now coaches his daughter.

Vlašić said her greatest extravagances are her piercings, but also listed a lip piercing as the one thing she wishes she had never worn. Vlašić, who stands 6-4, is extremely fashion conscious. For a while, she said she never wore high heels and wished she were a shorter woman with smaller feet so she could wear all kinds of shoes.


How tall is Blanka Vlašić? How old is Blanka Vlašić? Where does Blanka Vlašić live? Find out here.

Age: 32 years old
Birthday: November 8, 1983
Height: 6' 4"
Birthplace: Split, Croatia
Current Residence: Split, Croatia

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