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Tia Hellebaut wins Belgium first gold medal in Beijing Olympics
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With only one day left, Belgium finally got on to the Beijing Olympic gold medals table when Tia Hellebaut won the women's high jump title on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Hellebaut, the world indoor pentathlon champion, cleared 2.05 meters on her first attempt to claim the gold medal.

"I am always ready to go at big moments. It's something, a gift, I took from heptathlon. I think there is a reason why I have so many gold medals at home," said Hellebaut. "I think I still don't believe it. Before coming, I wanted to go home with a season's best or a personal best. Jumping 2.05m in these conditions is very hard. It was good that I came from the Heptathlon so I can do it."

Croatian Blanka Vlasic had to settle for the silver as she failed the first attempt on 2.05. The world champion, who had the eight best marks of the season and was an overwhelming favorite coming into the Olympics, didn't miss at any heights until her first go at 2.05 meters, which she cleared on her second attempt.

"It is a little bitter, but it's the sport. I had no luck today," said Vlasic. "Now my motivation is even bigger than before."

"I don't know why I missed it. It's very hard to explain. When I finished I didn't have my strike anymore. and I couldn't let myself get motion smoothly."

"I don't feel like much was wrong. I did a good job today and I need to be grateful."

Vlasic, unbeaten since June 2007, made three attempts at a new Olympic record of 2.07 but was unsuccessful. Hellebaut, who finished just 12th at the 2004 Athens Games but was the European champion in 2006, had one failed attempt at 2.07.

"I never expected to beat Blanka because for almost one year she has been unbeatable. But it was always nice to be at your best at big championships," said Hellebaut.

Hellebaut said that she might go back to compete on the heptathlon since she won the high jump title.

"There is a small chance that I will do another heptathlon because my heart is still there, but after this Olympic Gold medal, my heart is here (in the High Jump) as well," said Hellebaut.

The bronze medal went to Anna Chicherova with 2.03 meters, the Russian won silver at last year's world championship in Osaka, Japan.

Another Russian Elena Slesarenko, the 2004 Athens gold medalist and two-time world indoors champion, was fourth at 2.01.

(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)

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