Iolanda Balaș

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Iolanda Balaș
Iolanda Balaș 1967.jpg
Balaș in 1967
Personal information
Born (1936-12-12)12 December 1936
Timișoara, Romania
Died 11 March 2016(2016-03-11) (aged 79)
Bucharest, Romania
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 72 kg (159 lb)
Sport
Sport Athletics
Event(s) High jump
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 1.91 m (1961)

Iolanda Balaș (Romanian pronunciation: [joˈlanda ˈbalaʃ], Hungarian: Balázs Jolán, later Balázs-Sőtér Jolán; 12 December 1936 – 11 March 2016) was a Romanian athlete, an Olympic champion and former world record holder in the women's high jump. She was the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic gold medal and is considered to have been one of the greatest high jumpers of the twentieth century.

Early life[edit]

Balaș was born in Timișoara into a family of Hungarian descent.[1] Her mother, Etel Bozó was a homemaker, while her father, Frigyes, was originally a locksmith. Her father served in the Hungarian army until he was captured and brought to the Soviet Union and later back to Hungary, where he settled in Budapest.[2] Balaș tried to reunite the family and move to Hungary, but although she managed to obtain an Hungarian passport in 1947,[3] she was not allowed to leave Romania.[4] When asked in an interview in 2005 whether she had ever thought about defection, she said that it had crossed her mind; however, as it could have resulted in serious retaliation against her relatives, she did not want to risk it.[3] In the interview she said, "I feel sorry that I did not win Olympics for Hungary. But a person represents herself and after that a nation. It was not given for me to bear the Hungarian colors, to make happy those who speak my mother tongue. It evolved this way and I feel sorry for it, but I would have gone mad if I would thought constantly about this contradictory situation. I hope that besides Romanians also Hungarians are proud of me."[3]

Career[edit]

Balaș at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo

In 1953 she transferred from Timisoara club "Electrica" to CCA (CSA Steaua). After finishing fifth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, she won Olympic gold medals at Rome in 1960 (becoming the first Romanian woman to do so)[5] and Tokyo in 1964. At the 1964 Olympics she competed with a torn tendon, which forced her later to withdraw from the 1966 European Championships. Nevertheless, between 1957 and 1966, Balaș won 154 consecutive competitions,[6] not including qualifying competitions or exhibitions. She improved the world record 14 times, from 1.75 m to 1.91 m, and equalled it once outdoors and once indoors. She was the first woman to jump over six feet. Her technique was a sophisticated version of the scissors technique.[7]

Her record of 1.91 m, set in 1961, lasted until the end of 1971 (beaten by Ilona Gusenbauer from Austria), when jumpers with a more efficient technique (the straddle technique, and later the Fosbury style) took over.[7]

After retiring from competition in 1967, Balaș married her former coach Ion Soter (János Sőtér), and taught physical education in Bucharest. Between 1988 and 2005 she was president of the Romanian Athletics Federation.[7]

Death[edit]

Balaș on 2004 Romanian stamps

Balaș was diagnosed several years ago with type II diabetes. Due to ill health, she was hospitalized many times. In late February 2016, she went to the hospital with digestive problems and was discharged, but returned to the hospital two days later. She died at Elias Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, at the age of 79.[5][8]

Awards[edit]

Balaș receiving a trophy in 2010 for special merits (TV capture)

In 2010 Balaș received the royal decoration "Nihil Sine Deo" for special merits to the Romanian sports from Michael I of Romania, in a ceremony held at the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, for the way she led the Romanian Athletics Federation and to promote Romanian excellence in sport and young athletes.[9][10] In 2000, Track & Field News voted Balaș as the best female high jumper of the 20th century.[11] She was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012.[11]

Personal bests[edit]

Source:[7]

Type Event Best Location Date
Outdoor High jump 1.91 m Sofia, Bulgaria 16 July 1961

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://index.hu/sport/2005/11/18/balazsjolan/ Én még az europoliszhoz hasonlító Temesváron születtem, 1936 decemberében. A szüleim, a rokonaim egytől-egyig magyarok, most is Magyarországon élnek. Nekem viszont nem adatott meg ez a lehetőség. "I was born in December 1936, in Timisoara which then still resembled an europolis town. My parents, my relatives are one by one Hungarians, they still live in Hungary. But I could not have this chance"
  2. ^ "Mélységek és magasságok" [Depths and heights] (in Hungarian). Hócipő. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "'Sajnálom, hogy nem Magyarországnak nyertem olimpiákat'" (in Hungarian). sportgeza.hu. 18 November 2005. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Az egyetemes magyar sport nagyjai: Balázs Jolán" [The greats of the universal Hungarian sport: Balázs Jolán] (in Hungarian). 3szek.ro. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balas dies at 79". The New Zealand Herald. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  6. ^ (August 2016) "The Sport's Longest Winning Streak Gets Longer", Track & Field News, p 47
  7. ^ a b c d "Iolanda Balaş". Sports Reference. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "High jump legend Balas dies". IAAF. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Ordine și decorații
  10. ^ Iolanda Balaș, Ivan Patzaichin și Cristian Țopescu au primit decorația regala "Nihil Sine Deo" - Mediafax
  11. ^ a b "Hall of Fame – 2012". IAAF. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 

External links[edit]

Records
Preceded by
Thelma Hopkins
Women's high jump world record holder
14 July 1956 – 1 December 1956
Succeeded by
Mildred McDaniel
Preceded by
Mildred McDaniel
Women's high jump world record holder
13 October 1957 – 17 November 1957
Succeeded by
Zheng Fengrong
Preceded by
Zheng Fengrong
Women's high jump world record holder
7 June 1958 – 4 September 1971
Succeeded by
Ilona Gusenbauer