Vlasic hopes to be in tune for something special

Vlasic hopes to be in tune for something special
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Croatia's Blanka Vlansic wants to prove she's back to her best by winning a medal in Zurich next week.

It is almost five years since Blanka Vlasic jumped her personal best of 2.08m in one of the summers of her life: she had just become a world champion and now a few weeks later she was attempting to break the world record as she reached a remarkable peak.

Twelve months after that she won gold at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona before silver followed at the World Championships.

Then, darkness descended, as her career came to a halt.

An operation on an Achilles tendon and an injury on her ankle meant she missed the major events in the summers of 2012 and 2013, and posed the question of whether she would return to her best, if return to a championship at all.

But she has turned her life around to such an extent that Zurich is set to be treated to one of the great sights of modern athletics: the celebratory dancing routines of this brilliant Croatian when she has cleared the height she is aiming for.

If that happens this week at the Letzigrund Stadium, it will be a moment packed with emotion for Vlasic, 30, because it will probably mean she is back on an athletics podium, and those days of despair would finally have found a happy ending.

As she said to the IAAF last summer when she competed in the Diamond League before injury ruled her out of the World Championships in Moscow: "There were so many questions, they were like bugs in my head. And when you don’t get answers, you go searching for them and that can take you to some pretty dark places."

Now everything is shining again after a year where she finished sixth in the final at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot before a summer where she is joint second on the European Athletics rankings with 2.00m from Paris in July.

She shares that spot with Russia’s Mariya Kuchina and on height alone, they are the leading two women at these European Athletics Championships in the absence of another Russian, Anna Chicherova, who has cleared 2.01m.

Proof, if ever it was needed, that Vlasic has a semblance of normality back in her life: she is at a major event at the top of the tree.

When she achieved that mark in Paris, it was a season’s best and she beat Kuchina on countback with the Russian clearing a personal best.

If that was an injection of confidence - with defending European champion Ruth Beitia back in fourth then with 1.94m - she then beat the Spanish star again in London just over a fortnight later, once more going over 2.00m.

She remains grounded, even though she now has the perfect foundation for Zurich.

"I don’t want to ask too much from myself right now because I am jumping well and I am healthy," said Vlasic after her London win. "Let’s just say I always want to jump two metres. The European Championships is a big competition for me, and always a great challenge. The high jump is mostly a European event and there will be a lot of great girls.

"It’s a big championship with a qualification and a final, so it’s another big test for me. It’s always good to go through that and to have that experience again, especially now, at this moment for me."

Her career has been painted with gold from the moment she won the world junior title in Santiago in 2000 with a jump of 1.91m. She retained that crown two years later in Kingston before winning European under-23 gold in Bydgoszcz the following summer and progressing to two world titles, her European gold, two world indoor victories and an Olympic silver.

Now, in a way, it has been like starting all over again. Yet all great dancers never lose their rhythm and Blanka Vlasic will be hoping they are playing her song again in Zurich.