Ivana Vuleta, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
Ivana Vuleta, photo by Getty Images/ British Athletics
Ivana Spanovic Vuleta may be the athlete who will receive the most applause in Stark Arena. In 2017, this writer observed a most magnificent series of jumps as Mrs. Vuleta, then Spanovic, went 7.24 meters. Stuart Weir wrote this 4th Belgrade Preview.
Ivana Spanovic Vuleta
No one who was in the Kombank Arena, Belgrade during the 2017 European Indoor Athletics Championships will ever forget the atmosphere as Ivana Spanovic was jumping. She won with a leap of 7.24 meters, one of eight times that she has achieved 7 meters – not to mention at least two jumps of 6.99 meters. Not surprisingly, she said afterward: “I enjoyed every minute of competing in front of this home crowd. The people were amazing. I’m really glad that I could give them this gold medal”. Even Lorraine Ugen, who finished second, was feeding off the energy: “Women’s long jump and men’s pole vault were going on at the same time and when anyone requested a clap, it was crazy loud. So it was certainly nice to have people really appreciating the field events”.
The arena and Ivana are now operating under different names. Ivana has married Mark Vuleta and the arena has a new sponsor and is now called the Stark Arena.
Ivana told me last year: “I am excited about the world indoors. Serbia is a sports country and we love to track and field. It’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to it”.
European Indoors 2017, photo by European Athletics
Spanovic is a big competition athlete having jumped 7m at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics, the Beijing World Championships and the Portland World Indoors. She would have won in Tokyo 2021 if she had managed her 7-meter jump in the final instead of the qualifying round. She also happens to like competing in Belgrade, achieving three of her top five distances in her National Capital.
She has twice taken bronze at an outdoor World Championship and once at the Olympics. She has won the European Indoors three times in a row and her placings at the last three Indoor World Championships have been 3,2,1. She has also won 16 Diamond League long jump competitions.
Ivana Spanovic Vuleta, Diamond League Zurich 2021, photo by Diamond League AG
I last spoke to her in Zurich, 2021, when she had just won the Diamond League final with 6.96 meters in the final round. She told me: “I knew it would not be easy so I prepared myself mentally to give the best performance I was capable of. It is never easy to produce the big jump to win but it’s easier when you are competing with competitors on the same level as we push each other. Zurich is always one of my favorite cities to compete in and the city event was special”.
She added, referring to the challenge of training in the pandemic, “I approached the competition with caution. Even if this meant that I had to catch the leader in my sixth attempt. I am happy that I produced the 6.96 meters in the last attempt. I did not jump on this kind of surface for a year and it was difficult for me. Winning after 2020 and after this winter when I did not know if I could jump during such a long season and finish it in September was great. Finishing at this level is a good sign for next year. Now I just want to relax, enjoy my trophy and be happy that I am healthy”.