Beitia leaps to stardom as oldest winner of jump event

Ruth Beitia of Spain celebrating her high jump victory on countback, after four women cleared 1.97m on Saturday.
Ruth Beitia of Spain celebrating her high jump victory on countback, after four women cleared 1.97m on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO • Ruth Beitia wrote her name in the history books on Saturday by winning the high jump - the biggest victory of her 20-year career - at age 37.

The Spaniard's victory makes her the oldest-ever winner of a jumping event at the Olympics.

The previous record holder was German Heike Drechsler, who won the long jump gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 36.

Beitia won on countback after clearing 1.97m with three other women.

Mirela Demireva, 26, of Bulgaria took the silver while Blanka Vlasic, 32, of Croatia took the bronze. American mother-of-three Chaunte Lowe, 32, was the unlucky athlete to miss out on a medal.

Said Beitia, who made her international debut for Spain in 1996: "Of course, I'm very proud to still be continuing (in my sport). Even at my age, I have the same enthusiasm and happiness."

The victory comes four years after she retired from the sport following a bitterly disappointing fourth-place finish at London 2012.

She, however, returned to competition several months later to earn a bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

She came into the Olympics fresh from a victory in the European Championships in Amsterdam with a season's best jump of 1.98m.

The winning height of 1.97m was the lowest to win an Olympic women's high jump gold since Italy's Sara Simeoni leapt the same height at the 1980 Moscow Games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Beitia leaps to stardom as oldest winner of jump event'. Print Edition | Subscribe