Deja vu: Vlasic, Chicherova go 2-3 again at Bird’s Nest
BEIJING (AP) — Same stadium, same positions on the podium.
Just like at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Blanka Vlasic won the silver medal and Anna Chicherova took the bronze at the world championships on Saturday.
Both matched champion Maria Kuchina at 2.01 meters and finished behind the Russian on a countback.
Even though their medals weren’t gold, Vlasic and Chicherova still celebrated as if they’d won. Both women are former world champions, but neither expected to be back in top form for the world championships after struggling in recent years with injuries and inconsistent results.
“I wasn’t confident at all. I was just, like, happy that I boarded the plane,” said Vlasic, the 2007 and 2009 champion who cried after clearing 2.01 meters, her best height of the year. “When I came today and saw how the other girls are so ready, I said to myself, ‘Well, that’s it for me.’”
But after missing once at 1.92 meters, Vlasic made four jumps in a row — each time screaming and pumping her arms with more vigor. She even delighted the crowd by doing a little dance across the track at one point, swaying her hips from side to side.
The 31-year-old Croatian jumper missed nearly two years of competition after undergoing surgery on her left Achilles tendon in early 2012 and then another operation four months later when the injury became infected. She was forced to sit out the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 world championships.
“One moment you can be at the top and the other moment, nobody remembers you,” the Croat said. “I’m just well aware of all the things that can go bad and so grateful at every chance that I get to jump again.”
Chicherova, the 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, also struggled with an ankle injury that forced her out of last year’s European championships and affected her preparations for this year’s worlds. The 33-year-old Russian only started to gain confidence after clearing a world-leading 2.03 meters in July.
If she couldn’t win the gold, at least her teammate did.
“It’s more important that we took the medal,” Chicherova said, “and the gold stays at home, with our team.”