By Symone Goss and Gary Smith, World-Track
LONDON — Croatia’s high jump star Blanka Vlasic soared to victory at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka two-years-ago without a care in world, but she now admits to feeling a small degree of pressure in defending the crown.
Vlasic will start as one of the favourites for the title in Berlin, next month, but after suffering two defeats to her main challengers already this season, the Olympic silver medallist is bracing herself to deal with the pressure of being a reigning champion.
"In Osaka it was my first big medal, my first big achievement in senior athletics, so I didn’t know what to expect and I did not know how to win," Vlasic told Worldsport.tv.
"It’s a different kind of pressure when you are defending and when you are chasing some.
"I didn’t have these experiences before but now I know and from that part it’s easier. But when you’re defending something everybody expects you to win it."
She added: "I was favourite [in Osaka] and I hopefully I’ll be favourite now…I can’t avoid the pressure I just need to learn how to handle it."
Last season Vlasic suffered two big defeats, one to Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut and the other to Germany’s Arianne Friedrich.
The Croatian first went down to Hellebaut in a shocker at the Olympics in Beijing, that brought to an end her 34 meet winning streak, before painfully losing big again in a heart breaker to Friedrich at the AF Golden League meeting.
That defeat also ended her chances of winning US$500, 000 from the jackpot prize.
Interestingly it was the German Friedrich, who again ended the Croatian hopes in 2009 at very first Golden League meeting in the Berlin Olympic Stadium on June 14.
She then got it all wrong and came up short against Italy’s world silver medallist Antonietta DiMartino in Rome on June 10.
Both DiMartino and Friedrich will be strong in their approaches at the worlds, but Vlasic says there is no special preparation for this specific competition, just better concentration before her attempts.
"I don’t prepare myself for just one competition, I prepare for all of them," she explained.
"[During competition] I try to think about the perfect jump, how it needs to be done before the first step until the end.
"I try to remove all thoughts from my head and just try to concentrate on the most important things before the approach."
Vlasic will continue her preparation for what is expected to be a tough title defense in the German capital when she competes at the London Grand Prix on Friday.