Great Romanian athletics Olympic champion Iolanda Balas passed away on Friday, March 11, 2016, at the age of 79 years. Her death occurred at Elias Hospital in Bucharest, following some gastric complications, the Romanian Athletics Federation announces.
Iolanda Balas-Soter is the first Olympic champion of the Romanian athletics, the only one with two Olympic titles. She managed an unequaled performance in world sport – 14 world high jump records, of which 12 consecutive, two Olympic champion titles, three European titles (and a silver medals), 3 world universiade titles, nine Balkan titles and 19 national titles.
Added to these trophies there are a few results that could not be matched by anyone in the history of sports: Iolanda Balas-Soter holds simultaneously the records of 100 stadiums worldwide, and, at one time, the first 64 performances of her sport: she won the clearest Olympic wins in the history of high jump: 14 cm in Rome and 10 cm in Tokyo ahead of the second ranker. Former president of the Romanian Athletics Federation and former honorary president, but also former president of the Romanian Athletics Foundation, she was the first athlete in the world to have been nominated for Hall of Fame, the museum of the glories in this sport.
Iolanda Balas-Soter was born in Timisoara on December 12, 1936. She graduated from the Institute of Physical Education and Sports, athletics major (1967). She started practicing athletics at the age of 12 and in 1951 she set the national high jump record (1.48 m).
In 1956 she set the first world record of her career (1.75 m), which will be followed by another 13 in just five years. Her 1961 record of 1,91 m, remained unmatched for ten years. She won two Olympic champion titles: Rome (1960, 1.85 m) and Tokyo (1964, 1.90 m). For ten years, she recorded 142 consecutive victories, a performance that entered the Guinness Book of Records. At the European Athletics Championships in Stockholm (August 1958), Iolanda Balas won the first high jump gold medal, having brought the first European title in this sport to Romania. In 1962, in Belgrade, she won the European title, with 1,83 m.
She retired from competitive activity in 1967 because of an injury to the Achilles tendon. After this, she was a coach, a teacher, and researcher at Steaua Sports Club. From 1988 to 2005 she was president of the Romanian Athletics Federation. From 1998 to 2002 she held the position of vice-president of the Romanian Olympic Committee. She is the honorary president of the Romanian Athletics Federation. The Tineretului [Youth] Stadium in Bucharest was named after her.
She set up in 1993 the Romanian Athletics Foundation, one of the first sporting foundations, to support Romanian athletics and Romania’s national team.
Her sporting merits were acknowledged by being presented in 1958 with the title of Honored Master of Sports, in 1962, the Romania’s Star Order, Sports Merit Order (1966), Romania’s Star National Order in rank of Officer (2000). King Mihai I presented her on September 13, 2010, in a ceremony held at the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, with the royal decoration “Nihil Sine Deo” for outstanding merits. On November 27, 2012, at its 100th anniversary, the International Athletics Federation awarded prizes to its heroes from the past and today. On this occasion, the Hall of Fame of world-class athletes was inaugurated and Iolanda Balas-Soter was among the 13 chosen legends.
Iolanda Balas wrote method works devoted to highly competitive sport, being the author of the work “Study and record of training highly competitive athletes at altitude” (1988).
Gabriela Szabo on death of Iolanda Balas: It is a sad day for me; she was my mentor
“It is a sad day for me, Mrs Ioli was my mentor,” former Youth and Sports Minister Gabriela Szabo exclusively told Agerpres upon receiving the news that great athletics champion Iolanda Balas passed away on Friday, at the age of 79.
“If I got to work in athletics and in Romanian sports I owe it to Mrs Ioli. She was a very elegant and poised person. She was an excellency of Romanian sports. She was the person who brought balance to Romanian sports. Unfortunately, good people of the Romanian sport life are passing away. This is the saddest thing. Those who haven’t achieved excellence remain,” said Gabriela Szabo, another great athlete of Romania.
“It is a sad day for me and I can see that even the heavens are mourning for Mrs Ioli. I am sorry, because no one cared about her lately, no one opened her door to ask if she needed anything. The last time when I opened her door to give her a birthday present she burst into tears, because she didn’t expect it. She no longer expected anything from anyone. A great person died, a person who made sacrifices for the Romanian sports, A Great Lady,” former Youth and Sports Minister Gabriela Szabo added.
PM Ciolos conveys condolences on death of Olympic champion Balas
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos on Friday conveyed condolences on the death of Romanian Olympic high jumper Iolanda Balas.
“Iolanda Balas – Romania’s first Olympic who improved the world record 14 times – passed away today. Condolences to all her close friends, to those who loved and admired her,” Ciolos said in a Facebook post on Friday.
FRA’s President Sandu: Iolanda Balas’ passing away, great loss for world sports
Iolanda Balas’ passing away has saddened all the Board members of the Romanian Athletics Federation (FRA), Ion Sandu, the FRA president, told Agerpres on Friday.
“Mrs. Iolanda Balas was a great person, the greatest Romanian athlete of all time, one of the world’s top 20 athletes of all time. It is a great loss to the Romanian athletics, for the Romanian and world sports. Unfortunately, I cannot be in Bucharest, to bring her a final tribute, sooner than Monday, after the end of the competition [Europe’s Cup] in Arad. When I received the news, I was together with George Boroi, commander of Steaua Club and a former great athlete, Anisoara Cusmir, Olympic champion, Constantina Dita, Olympic champion and Ion Buliga, the FRA secretary. We all burst into tears when we heard the sad news. My deepest condolences to Balas’ family,” Ion Sandu said.