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25 years since Olympic title of Bulgarian queen of high jump

Photo: library

It has been a quarter of a century since today’s President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee, Stefka Kostadinova, added the Olympic gold to her collection of medals. The events on August 3, 1996, which took place on a hot evening in front of 85,000 spectators at the Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta are among the most dramatic and memorable in the history of sports.

World high jump record holder among the women Stefka Kostadinova left for the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996 with the clear understanding that this was her last chance for an Olympic title. She was the top female athlete in the high jump and arrived in the United States after overcoming the height of 205 cm 20 times, while everyone else did it 5 times. Despite her decade-long superiority in the high jump, she was aware that it would not be easy, but she was absolutely ready to do anything to achieve her dream of winning the Olympic gold that she missed.

The qualifiers went smoothly for her with first place in the group and no mistakes. In the final, however, there was an unexpected obstacle in the face of Greek athlete Niki Bakoyannis, who was having the games of her life. Just like the Games in Seoul 1988 when Kostadinova remained second, the height of 203 cm turned out to be an important milestone. Up to 201 cm Stefka, Bakoyannis and Inha Babakova were progressing together, as the Bulgarian and the Ukrainian were in the lead because they had made no mistakes. At 203 cm Babakova dropped out, but Bakoyannis broke the Greek record on her third attempt… With her first try Stefka overcame 203 cm and was still in the lead. The bar was raised to 205 but the Greek athlete did not manage to jump over it. Kostadinova successfully flew over the bar and no one could take the Olympic gold away from her anymore.

The Bulgarian athlete won the gold of the Atlanta Games in one of the strongest Olympic competitions in the history of the discipline.

Nine years after setting the still-standing world record in the high jump (209 cm, Rome), Stefka Kostadinova added the only medal she truly missed in her collection of medals. With the gold won in Atlanta, the Bulgarian athlete entered the club of world celebrities and became one of the greatest women in the history of sports.

Editor: Elena Karkalanova /based on articles from Bulgarian National Radio – "Horizont"/

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: library
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