Spaniard Ruth Beitia leaped into the Rio night to win Spain's first ever Olympic gold in women's athletics and claim her first global outdoor high jump crown at the age of 37.
The three-time European champion cleared 1.88, 1.93 and 1.97 at first attempt and became the oldest Olympic champion in the jumps when all four remaining athletes failed to get over two metres. Mirela Demireva of Bulgaria took silver ahead of 2007 and 2009 world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia, who added bronze to the silver she won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“My dream has become a reality,” Beitia said. “I'm aware that I’m 37 years old. I think I'm one of the oldest women to win an Olympic gold medal. Of course, I'm very proud to still be continuing up to now. Even at my age, I have the same enthusiasm and happiness. I’ve been working with the same coach for 25 years.”
Extending her arms out in front her body and twitching her fingers before starting her run, Beitia charged towards the bar to successfully clear three heights. She was appearing at her fourth Olympics having finished 16th in Athens, seventh in Beijing and fourth in London.
Demireva became the first medallist from Bulgaria in athletics since 2000, when Tereza Marinova took gold in the women’s triple jump. The silver medallist, and the youngest of the final four at 26, said: “I am extremely happy. It’s a dream come true. Since I got selected for the Olympic Games in Rio I knew they would be my Olympics. I put all my heart and emotion into this silver medal.”
“This medal is a badge of honour, it's a reward for being brave given the circumstances," bronze medallist Vlasic talked about her battles with an Achilles problem. “The doctor didn’t tell me to stay out of the Olympics, but they told me it would hurt, and it did.”