Sandra Perković at the 2010 Hanžeković Memorial in Zagreb
21 June 1990 |
|Height||1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||85 kg (190 lb) (2012)|
|Sport||Track and field|
|Coached by||Ivan Ivančić|
|Achievements and titles|
|Highest world ranking||2nd (2010, 2011)|
|Personal best(s)||Discus throw: 69.11 (2012, NR)
Shot put: 16.40 (2011, NR)
Perković's successful junior career culminated in winning gold at the 2009 European Junior Championships with a new national record. A month later, she made the final of the World Championships as the youngest discus thrower in the field.
In her first year of senior competition she won gold at the 2010 European Championships, becoming the youngest ever European champion in women's discus throw. A six-month doping suspension after testing positive for a banned psychostimulant kept her out of competition for most of the 2011 season, including the World Championships, but she returned in strong form in 2012 and successfully defended her title in the European Championships.
Early life and junior career 
Perković started with athletics in the second grade of elementary school, and also played basketball and volleyball. By the 6th grade, athletics prevailed and Perković concentrated on shot put and discus throw. In 2001 she joined the Dinamo-Zrinjevac athletics club. Since 2004 she has been coached by former Olympic shot putter Ivan Ivančić, who recognized her talent in discus throw. In her first year with the new coach, she improved her personal best from 32 to over 50 meters, as Ivančić had predicted.
First successes in discus throw came in 2006. In her first major competition, the 2006 World Junior Championships, Perković failed to make the final, but became a regular international medalist thereafter, winning silver medals in both the World Youth Championships and the European Junior Championships in 2007, and a bronze in the 2008 World Junior Championships. She was ranked 5th in the 2008 junior world list with 55.89 m.
Perković suffered a very serious setback in early 2009, after doctors misdiagnosed her appendicitis. Her appendix burst after three days, which caused a near-fatal sepsis that required two emergency surgeries and a lengthy recovery. She lost 15 kilograms (33 lb) of body weight in the process and was initially not expected to return to full training before the end of the year.
However, Perković resumed training after a three-month break, and returned to competition by winning the discus throw gold medal at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Novi Sad in July 2009, where she set a new national record with a 62.44 m throw, and also met the A standard for the World Championships. Her performance was the best in the European Junior Championships for 20 years, with a winning margin of 7 meters and 33 centimeters, the largest in the history of the Championships. Her other two legal marks in the final would also have been sufficient for the gold.
A month later, she placed 9th at her first major senior competition, the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, as the youngest discus thrower in the field, including the qualifiers. Later in the year she improved the national record to 62.79 m. Her throws ultimately captured top eleven spots in the 2009 junior discus throw world list.
Following her successful 2009 season, she was named by the SPIKES magazine as one of "ten rising stars to watch in 2010", and received the Croatian Olympic Committee's Dražen Petrović Award as the most promising Croatian female athlete in 2009.
Senior career 
At the Croatian Winter Throws Championship held on 6 March 2010 in Split, Perković massively improved her personal best to 66.85 m, setting a 2010 world leading mark and surpassing the 2009 world best of 66.40 m, set by Li Yanfeng. On the same day, Perković set her outdoor personal best in shot put, at 16.02 m. She continued her strong throwing by taking gold in the under-23 section of the women's discus at the European Cup Winter Throwing meeting in Arles; her winning mark of 61.93 m would have been enough for silver in the senior competition.
In June, Perković took gold in both discus throw and shot put in the Second League of the 2010 European Team Championships, helping her national team move up into the First League competition in 2011.
Perković's good form in 2010 culminated at the European Championships in Barcelona, where she won a gold medal in discus throw. Perković struggled in the qualification and was even close to elimination as she failed to make the qualifying norm of 60.00 m, placing only 10th out of 12 athletes to advance to the final. However, in the final she made a strong opening round throw which kept her in silver medal position until the last, 6th round, when she made a winning throw of 64.67 m, becoming the youngest ever European champion in women's discus throw.
In the IAAF Diamond League final at Memorial van Damme in Bruxelles, Perković won with the new national record of 66.93 m, and finished her first Diamond League season in second place overall, after Yarelis Barrios. Shortly after her victory at the Hanžeković Memorial in Zagreb on 1 September, Perković concluded the 2010 season by winning silver at the IAAF Continental Cup in Split. European Athletics recognised her senior breakthrough year by giving her the European Athletics Rising Star of the Year award.
In February 2011 Perković won the discus throw at the Croatian Winter Throws Championship in Split and further improved her national record to 67.96 m. In the same competition she also set the national record in shot put, at 16.40 m. Just days later, Perković suffered a back injury that forced her to miss the European Cup Winter Throwing in March. She returned to competition in May by winning the Diamond League discus throw event in Shanghai.
Doping suspension 
In June 2011 it was announced that Perković had failed two doping tests conducted in the month before at the Diamond League meetings in Rome and Shanghai. She tested positive for methylhexanamine, a psychostimulant banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2010. Perković stated that the positive results were due to Nox Pump, an American-made energy drink product she had been using without knowing it contained banned substances. She did not request an analysis of her B-sample.
The Croatian Athletics Federation gave Perković a six-month suspension, later confirmed by the IAAF, recognizing that she had no intention to take the banned stimulant, nor she was aware of using it. According to the IAAF rules, all marks set after her first positive test were annulled, including the mark of 69.99 m set on 4 June 2011 in Varaždin, despite the fact that she tested negative in that competition. The 69.99 m mark would have been the best in the world in the last twelve years. The suspension ran until 7 December, keeping Perković out of competition for the rest of the 2011 season, including the World Championships.
2012 season 
She returned from her ban in 2012 and continued to throw well: she won the under-23 section at the 2012 European Cup Winter Throwing, set a national record of 68.24 m at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, then broke the meet record at the Prefontaine Classic in June. By surpassing the Olympic A standard of 62.00 m, Perković qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In the European Championships in Helsinki, Perković's main rival was Nadine Müller of Germany, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist and the 2012 world leading discus thrower with 68.89 m. After successfully qualifying, Perković found herself in serious trouble in the final after posting two no-throws. Under pressure, she threw 67.62 m in the third round, which ultimately proved too good for Müller and the rest of the field, and gave Perković her second European title.
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