Two-time high jump Olympic champion Iolanda Balas was the greatest Romanian athlete of all time. She was born on December 12, 1936.
Iolanda Balas had a scintillating athlete’s career, including 5 Olympic and 14 world records. For 11 years she was undefeated, while the 140 competitions she won earned the Romanian athlete a place in the Book of World Records.
Iolanda Balas took up athletics at the age of 13. In less than a year since her debut, she broke the national juniors’ record. When she was 19, Iolanda Balas succeeded her first great performance as a senior athlete: she was the runner-up competitor in the European Championship in Berne. On July 14, 1956, Iolanda Balas broke the first world record of her career, with a jump of 1.76 meters.
At the Melbourne Olympics, Iolanda Balas was ranked as the great favourite. However, the departure to Melbourne was forbidden for her husband and coach, Ioan Soter, on the grounds that he had a brother in Australia. Deprived of any technical assistance, Iolanda unassumingly came in 5th. As soon as she returned to Romania, Iolanda Balas was accused of having deliberately failed to win a medal. Those were painfully trying times for Iolanda, and the defeat in Melbourne would be the last of her career.
In Stockholm in 1958 she walked away with gold at the European Athletics championships. In Rome, in 1960, Iolanda Balas became an Olympic champion, succeeding a new world record with a jump of 1.85 meters. A new Olympic title would be added to her record sheet in Tokyo in 1964. Between the two Olympic titles, Iolanda Balas broke and set any possible world record of her time.
Iolanda Balaş – Söter’s blazing trail took her to a new Olympic win, at the Olympic Games in Ciudad de Mexico in 1968. Unfortunately, the year before, in 1967, Iolanda sustained an injury and had no choice other than give up competition altogether, after 11 years when she was literally undefeated.
In the subsequent period, the former athlete Iolanda Balas took the time to focus on the technical aspects of the sports discipline that brought her so many awards and distinctions. The Romanian athlete published a string of specialized works, being, among other things, a pioneering promoter of high-altitude training, a method extensively used today.
From 1991 to 2005, Iolanda Balas Sőter was the president of the Romanian Athletics Federation. At that time, Romanian athletics stood to gain, in terms of performance level as well as in terms of management. Iolanda Balas died at the Elias Hospital in Bucharest on March 11, 2016.