Profile Born on 25 March 1965 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Stefka Kostadinova became one of the all-time greats in the women’s high jump event. Her world record of 2.09m is one of the oldest in athletics. Nine years after her gold medal win at the 1987 World Championships, Kostadinova finally won the title that had always eluded her, the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
From the mid-1980s until the 1990s, Kostadinova would dominate the women’s High Jump. In 1985, she won gold at the inaugural World Indoor Athletics Championships, the “World Indoor Games”. The following year she won the event at the 1986 European Championships and also set her first world record (2.08m). In 1987, she claimed her second of five world indoor titles (1985, 1987, 1989, 1993 and 1997). On 30 August 1987, Kostadinova won the gold medal at the World Championships in Rome, setting the current world record of 2.09 metres.
Yet, Kostadinova’s harvest at the Olympics, until 1996, remained rather poor and it did not reflect her dominance in the High jump. In 1984, 19-year-old Kostadinova was denied the opportunity to show her potential at the Los Angeles Olympics, due to the Eastern Bloc’s boycott. At the 1988 Olympics, Kostadinova was the absolute favourite. Yet, she fell two centimetres short, gaining "only” the silver medal behind American Louise Ritter. In 1992, she only finished fourth.
After she had taken a leave of absence to give birth to her son Nikolay in 1995, Kostadinova won the gold medal at the 1995 World Championships, a mere seven months later. Totally reinvigorated, Kostadinova set the crown on her career the following year, when, finally, she won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Kostadinova jumped over two metres more than 100 times, an achievement unequalled by any other athlete in the women’s event.