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Iolanda Balaș

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 2
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 2
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameIolanda•Balaș (-Söter)
Used nameIolanda•Balaș
Other namesJolán Balázs
Born12 December 1936 in Timișoara (ROU)
Died11 March 2016 in București (Bucharest) (ROU)
Measurements185 cm / 72 kg
NOC Romania


Born near Johnny Weissmuller’s home, Balaș got into athletics through her caretaker, former high jumper Luisa Ernst. She made her debut in 1949, and developed a jumping technique which was not deemed advantageous, a variation of the scissor technique but without the rotation of the torso and with the legs opening, instead of coming together towards the bar. In 1955, before the Melbourne Games, she jumped 1.75 m setting the first of her 14 world records (plus 4 indoor). She was the favourite at the Australian Olympics, but she placed only fifth and the winner, the American Millie McDaniel, broke Balaș’s world record. On 22 June 1958 in Cluj, she became the first woman to exceed 1.80 m. She won her first gold at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, reaching 1.85 m, 14 cm more than the second placed Pole Jaroslawa Jozwiakowska. “My first obstacle is the bar. It would be good to have a rival”, she often repeated at the time. In Japan, despite suffering from tendon and knee problems, she won the gold by jumping 1.90 m. The tendon problems forced her to abstain from the European Championships in 1966, but for years she was to be associated with other well-known abstainers, who forfeited to avoid gender checks, which had recently been introduced by the International Federation. She retired officially in 1967, losing a competition after 140 consecutive victories (unbeaten since 1958). During her career she won two European golds (1958-62), and one silver (1954), apart from the indoor gold in 1966. Her last world record, 1.91 in 1961, lasted for 10 years. After retiring she married her former coach Ian Söter, taught physical education in Bucharest, and from 1988 to 2005 was president of the Romanian Athletics Federation.

Personal Best: HJ – 1.91 (1961).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1956 Summer Olympics Athletics ROU Iolanda Balaș
High Jump, Women (Olympic) 5
1960 Summer Olympics Athletics ROU Iolanda Balaș
High Jump, Women (Olympic) 1 Gold
1964 Summer Olympics Athletics ROU Iolanda Balaș
High Jump, Women (Olympic) 1 Gold

Special Notes