They say that the Queen of England is eternal. Obviously, such a statement about a person of flesh and blood cannot be true, but – you know what is meant by this jokey phrase.
She has been there for a long time, as if she has no intention of coming down from the window of Buckingham Palace and that of Windsor, waving cheerfully and even discovering events. Well, one thing in sports can certainly be compared to Elizabeth II, although it’s not exactly forever either.
On August 30, 35 years ago, Stefka Kostadinova overcame 209 centimeters in the high jump sector at the Olympic Stadium in Rome during the World Championships in Athletics. Two meters and nine centimeters. Like a well-built NBA basketball player, for example. Even tall – LeBron James is 206 centimeters, let’s say.
Stefka succeeded, and then tears immediately came, realizing what she had accomplished. 209 centimeters was two more than Lyudmila Andonova’s 207, which the other Bulgarian star in the discipline jumped three years earlier.
Kostadinova was the new record holder, but hardly anyone on that August day in Rome believed that 35 years later this record would still sit proudly at the top of the charts.
“35 years on Olympus! 35 years unattainable! 35 years have passed, your record does not fall! It does not fall because it is unique! Congratulations, Stefka Kostadinova! And with this 209 cm, may you proudly wave the Bulgarian flag high above all the others! 3 plus 5 make 8 – the number of infinity and your record!”, wrote on Facebook this morning another giant of our sport – Hristo Stoichkov. Its analogy with the figure eight is clear.
On that day in Rome, Stefka was only 22 years old. But he is already a champion, considered a superstar in athletics and a competitor to whom he has special attention.
On the same day, shortly before the success of the Bulgarian, Ben Johnson broke the world record at 100 meters. But the big news from Olimpico is not over. After successfully overcoming the qualifications with 191 cm, Stefka made a total of 13 attempts in the final.
She overcomes 185 cm on the first attempt, then the same thing happens with 189 cm, 193, 196, 199, 202 cm. At 202, Suzanne Bayer, one of the two big competitors, falls. Tamara Bykova remains. Stefka jumps from the third attempt 204 cm, from the second 206, misses 208, where Bikova surrenders, who with 204 cm is silver.
Kostadinova goes to 209 cm for the record and succeeds on the second attempt!
Thus, with 13 jumps, 9 of which were successful in the final, the Bulgarian is on Everest.
In the years since then, several big stars have tried to dethrone the Plovdiv woman. The Croatian Blanka Vlasic was the closest – she jumped 208 cm in 2009. Russian Anna Chicherova reached 207 cm in 2011.
Maria Lasitskene is currently a threat (best 206cm), as is Ukrainian young star Yaroslava Mahuchyk, who at just 20 years old has Olympic bronze and world silver but has yet to jump over 204cm.
No wonder the record is 40 years old, or even half a century… Of course, nothing lasts forever in sports. In life too. Not even the Queen of England is like that.
But for now, our pride in Stefka’s 35-year record remains. For the sports history of Bulgaria, this is one of the unforgettable moments.