High jumper Balas, a 1964 Tokyo Games gold medalist, dies at 79


Iolanda Balas, a two-time Olympic high jump champion from Romania, died Friday following gastric complications. She was 79.

Romania’s track and field federation said Balas died at the Elias Hospital in Bucharest.

Balas, the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic gold medal, took first at the 1960 Rome Games and the 1964 Tokyo Games.

She set her first world record of 1.75 meters in 1956. In 1961, she set a world record of 1.91, which stood for 10 years.

Balas retired in 1967 and served as chairman of the Romanian track federation from 1988 to 2002.

Her legendary exploits did not go unnoticed. Track & Field News chose Balas as the top high jumper of the 20th century in 2000.

Above all, Balas was a prolific winner throughout her legendary career.

In addition to her 14 world records and two Olympic titles, Balas was unbeaten for almost 11 years. She posted 140 consecutive victories starting in 1957.

Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos issued a statement on Facebook after Balas passed away.

“Condolences to all her close friends, to those who loved and admired her,” Ciolos wrote in a post.