High-Jump Queen: Bulgaria's Men's Volleyball May Have Shot at MedalViews on BG | August 3, 2012, Friday // 15:18| views
Stefka Kostadinova, now 47, is the President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee and a world-record holder in high jump with a performance that was set 25 years ago at the World Champs in Rome. Photo by FIVB
"Every Bulgarian athlete is important to me, we have a delegation of 63 here in London and I am trying to follow everyone that is competing for our country at these Olympics" says Stefka Kostadinova, a true legend who after retiring from competitive sport has taken up the challenge of chairing Bulgaria's Olympic Committee.
She is touring around the Olympic venues and after the volleyball match opposing Bulgaria to the guys from "Down Under", Kostadinova is set to move to the ExCel arena to cheer on the Bulgarian boxers. "Volleyball is extremely popular in Bulgaria and the whole nation is following the campaign of these guys who made us very proud two days ago as they beat Poland".
Back in 1987, Kostadinova set a world record, 2.09 m, and 25 years later it is still standing. That was a memorable day for Stefka who proudly and emotionally recalls: "I remember that it was a very long competition, with strong competitors. It was the perfect day; by the end of the day I was a world champion and a world record holder as well". She was the favorite to win gold at the Seoul Olympics one year later but she eventually had to wait for a few more years, after having a baby, before standing on top of the Olympic podium in 1996. "It is very difficult for me to pick out a single moment or a special memory from my long career since every single competition and event I joined was and remains dear to me". Back then, as she set that world record, Bulgaria was – along with the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union – a major force to reckon with in track and field. However, this is no longer the case, but Kostadinova knows what it takes to climb back to the top: "Many coaches have left the country because they were able to find more lucrative opportunities abroad, and that is something I can fully understand. However, our politicians are being helpful and we are on a good track to get them back home for the good of our sport".
And what about this world record that has been standing for 25 years? "Blanka Vlasic, a multiple world champion from Croatia, is a high jumper that I really love. Actually we are also close friends but she has been struggling with an injury and will be missing the Olympics. I think, once she is fit again and everything comes together, she may beat that record. As for the high jump competition here in London, I see Russia's Anna Chicherova as the main favorite for gold, but I assume we won't see any world record here. The Olympics are a very special arena where you have to win gold; records do not really matter as long as you finally stay atop of the charts".
Bulgaria is still waiting for its first medal from the XXX Summer Olympiad but Kostadinova feels good news are about to come for her home country: "I think we have good chances in wrestling, boxing and rhythmic gymnastics. And maybe also in volleyball, why not? This group has beaten one of the favorites of the tournament, Poland, and they are progressing match after match. That's also why I am here to cheer on them". If her predictions turn into reality, Bulgaria would be back on the podium of the men's tournament 32 years after claiming silver at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.