Iolanda Balas, born 12 December 1936, is a Romanian former athlete (Romanian father and Hungarian mother), who is considered one of the greatest high jumpers ever.
Occupies a special niche in athletics history, for she dominated her event - the high jump - like no one else in the sport. For a whole decade she went unbeaten between 1957 and 1966, not merely winning an astonishing 150 consecutive competitions, but invariably crushing the opposition, including qualifying competitions or exhibitions.. She was indeed in a class apart.
Her motivation was not from beating her opponents - that could be taken for granted from 1957 until leg injuries began to take their toll in 1967 - but in constantly improving. She established the first of 14 world records in with a leap of 1.75m and finished up in 1961 with 1.91m, and equaled it once outdoors and once indoors, on the way becoming the first woman to jump six feet (1.83m). She captured Olympic titles in Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 by huge margins, and such was her supremacy that at the time she cleared 1.91m no other woman had gone higher than 1.78m.
Some of her luckless contemporaries complained that they had no chance against her because she was so very tall (1.85m, or nearly 6ft 1in) with particularly long legs even for that height. But that physical advantage was largely canceled out by her inability to master the more efficient straddle and western roll techniques of the pre-Fosbury Flop era. She explained: "My style is quite obsolete but it suits my body structure." Her record of 1.91 m, set in 1961, lasted until the end of 1971 (beaten by Ilona Gusenbauer from Austria), when jumpers with a more efficient technique (the straddle technique, and later the Fosbury style) took over.
Iolanda Balach is still an active women in the Romanian federation, at the age of 75, this amazing women is still "giving" for her sport.