Spanovic plotting a hat-trick of European indoor long jump titles

Ivana Spanovic
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After missing the European Championships final due to injury, Ivana Spanovic is looking to return to competition in time for the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow next March

No one who was there - or the millions watching on television across the world - will forget the moment Ivana Spanovic won the long jump at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in front of her own fans in Belgrade last year.

She sprawled out on the ground in celebration, creating snapshots which will pass the test of time but what many perhaps didn't remember is the Serbian superstar celebrated not only winning the title but also retaining her crown.

Ask any sportspeople about how hard that is, knowing the expectation to keep hold of the gold medal that was yours two years earlier.

Now Spanovic is preparing to take on that pressure again as she prepares to become only the second woman in history to win this indoor title three times in a row, following in the footsteps of Heike Drechsler who was the first to achieve it with a hat-trick of titles between 1986 and 1988 when the championships were held every winter.

After a summer which ended in frustration as injury ruled her out of the European Championships in Berlin where she was looking to defend her title, Spanovic, 28, has returned to training to prepare for Glasgow 2019.

“I was ready for Berlin but I could not defend my gold medal,” Spanovic told Vecernje Novosti in a recent interview. “It is something I remember and on which I base all motivation on in the coming period: my flight into new distances.”

Spanovic has won four gold medals in her career, including her first major global title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham where she extended her exceptional championship record.

Since 2008 when she was crowned World U20 champion in Bydgoszcz, Spanovic has won 10 more medals, making the podium every year since 2013 when she won bronze at the World Championships in Moscow.

The indoor scene has been particularly fruitful with her best distance of 7.24m coming at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, a distance which puts her third on the world all-time list behind Drechsler (7.37m) and world outdoor record-holder Galina Chistyakova (7.30m).

But after a summer where her best jump was 6.99m in June which her put equal second on the European list, an injured Spanovic could only watch on from afar as Germany’s Malaika Mihambo won gold in Berlin with 6.75m.

Mihambo could be a big threat in Glasgow but Spanovic, who won by 27 centimetres in Belgrade last March, is as hungry as ever for more glory, and that piece of history.

"For the time being, I plan to compete indoors at the beginning of the season," outlined Spanovic. "We have time to make a good plan; we are waiting for the calendar so we can get everything in hand. However, it is certain that I will defend my gold medal from Belgrade at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow."