Tia Hellebaut

Tia Hellebaut
Personal information
Born (1978-02-16) 16 February 1978
Belgium Antwerp
Height 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 62 kg (137 lb)
Country  Belgium
Now coaching Wim Vandeven
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals 1st (Beijing, 2008)
Personal best(s) High jump (outdoor & indoor): 2.05 m[1]
Updated on 11 August 2012.

Tia Hellebaut (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈti.aː ˈɦɛləbʌut]; born 16 February 1978 in Antwerp) is a retired Belgian track and field athlete, as well as a chemist, who started out in her sports career in the heptathlon, and afterwards specialized in the high jump event. She has cleared 2.05 metres both indoors and outdoors.

Hellebaut was the 2008 Olympic champion in the high jump. She was previously the European Champion in 2006 and then the European Indoor Champion in 2007. She won the gold medal in the pentathlon at the 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships. In addition to these medals, she has participated at the World Championships in Athletics on four occasions.

She holds the Belgian records indoor pentathlon, indoor long jump and high jump, both indoors and outdoors.[2]


Hellebaut started as a professional athlete with Atletiek Vlaanderen in the period from 2001 to October 2005. From 1 November 2006 she again became a professional athlete, this time at Bloso. During her most successful period, Hellebaut was trained by her partner, Wim Vandeven, at her club, Atletica 84.

At the 2006 European Championships and 2007 Indoor European Championships Hellebaut won the gold medal in high jump. The 2006 victory became especially notable, when just a couple of minutes later her close friend and compatriot Kim Gevaert completed a historical sprint double. The images of both athletes celebrating their victory together, wrapped in a national flag, became part of Belgian sports history.

In 2007 Hellebaut set the fourth best pentathlon score of all time, but chose not to contest the European Indoor Championships because of illness, choosing instead to compete only in the high jump, which she later won. Most of the remainder of her 2007 high jump season was hampered by an ankle injury. A shoulder injury, which made it difficult for her to throw the javelin, ended her career in heptathlon around this time.

For the 2008 indoor season, Hellebaut returned her focus to multi-events and became world champion of pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, where she set a secord for the best high jump result in a women's multi-event competition, clearing 1.99 m.[3]

At the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing, Hellebaut reached her pinnacle thus far by winning the gold medal in the high jump, ahead of the favorite, Blanka Vlašić of Croatia, with a new outdoor personal best of 2.05 m. Her achievement represented the first-ever athletics gold medal in the Olympics for a Belgian woman, and only the second of any color, one day after Belgium won their first (silver) medal in the 4 × 100 m relay.

Retirement and comebacks

On 5 December 2008 Hellebaut announced her pregnancy and retirement from professional athletics and that she would start working for a sports marketing company. The following year, on 9 June, her daughter Lotte was born.

Inspired by fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' comeback to the WTA as a young mother, she unexpectedly announced her return to athletics on 16 February 2010, her 32nd birthday. Hellebaut also announced that she would be concentrating exclusively on the high jump and aimed to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics.[4]

Shortly after placing fifth at the 2010 European Athletic Championships in Barcelona by clearing 1.97 metres, her first major championships after her comeback, it was reported that Hellebaut was pregnant again. During a press conference on 17 August she confirmed that she had been pregnant for three months already, and that this had been a conscious choice. Although Hellebaut did not participate in any further 2010 events, she never officially announced that the new pregnancy would definitively end her career.[5]

On 16 June 2011, 4 months after the birth of her second daughter Saartje, Hellebaut announced her second return, confirming that she aimed to defend her title at the London Games.[6] She was the flag bearer of Belgium during the 2012 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations. She ended fifth in the high jump competition.

On 6 March 2013, after the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg, she announced her second retirement, saying that she could no longer challenge herself mentally in competition.


International achievements

Hellebaut warming up before competing
Hellebaut (centre) preparing for the 2010 European final
Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Belgium
1995 European Youth Olympic Festival Bath, United Kingdom 9th High jump 1.75 m
1997 European Junior Championships Ljubljana, Slovenia 11th Heptathlon 5157 pts
1999 European U23 Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 6th Heptathlon 5548 pts
2000 European Indoor Championships Ghent, Belgium Pentathlon DNF
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada 14th Heptathlon 5680 pts
2003 World Championships Paris, France Heptathlon DNF
2004 World Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary 5th Pentathlon 4526 pts
Olympic Games Athens, Greece 12th High jump 1.85 m (o)
2005 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 6th High jump 1.93 m
2006 World Championships Indoor Moscow, Russia 6th High jump 1.96 m (xo)
European Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 1st High jump 2.03 m (o)
World Athletics Final Stuttgart, Germany 2nd High jump 1.98 m
IAAF World Cup Athens, Greece 2nd High jump 1.97 m
2007 European Indoor Championships Birmingham, England 1st High jump 2.05 m (o)
World Championships Osaka, Japan 14th High jump 1.90 m (xo)
2008 World Indoor Championships Valencia, Spain 1st Pentathlon 4867 pts
Olympics Games Beijing, China 1st High jump 2.05 m (o)
World Athletics Final Stuttgart, Germany 3rd High jump 1.97 m
2010 European Championships Barcelona, Spain 5th High jump 1.97 m (xxo)
2012 World Indoor Championships Istanbul, Turkey 5th High jump 1.95 m (o)
Olympic Games London, United Kingdom 5th High jump 1.97 m (o)
2013 European Indoor Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 8th High jump 1.87 m (xo)


Personal records
Event Result Year Extra
100 metres hurdles 13.91 seconds 2006
60 metres hurdles 8.50 seconds 2006
Triple jump 13.05 metres 2001
Shot put 13.85 metres 2008
Javelin throw 44.37 metres 2001
200 metres 24.65 seconds 2006
800 metres 2:14.75 seconds 2006
Long jump (indoor) 6.42 metres 2007 NR
Long jump (outdoor) 6.44 metres 2007
High jump (indoor) 2.05 metres 2007 NR
High jump (outdoor) 2.05 metres 2008 NR
Heptathlon 6201 points 2006
Pentathlon 4877 points 2007 NR

Belgian record marks
Event Result Year Location
Pentathlon indoor 4268 points 17 February 1999 Ghent, Belgium
4436 points 25 February 2001 Ghent, Belgium
4560 points 1 February 2004 Zuidbroek, the Netherlands
4589 points 21 February 2004 Aubière, France
4877 points 11 February 2007 Ghent, Belgium
High jump (outdoor) 1.95 metres 20 June 2004 Plovdiv, Bulgaria
1.95 metres 27 August 2004 Athens, Greece
1.98 metres 2 June 2006 Oslo, Norway
2.00 metres 8 July 2006 Paris, France
2.00 metres 15 July 2006 Rome, Italy
2.01 metres 11 August 2006 Gothenburg, Sweden
2.03 metres 11 August 2006 Gothenburg, Sweden
2.05 metres 23 August 2008 Beijing, China
Long jump indoor 6.36 metres 19 February 2006 Ghent, Belgium
6.42 metres 11 February 2007 Ghent, Belgium
High jump indoor 1.96 metres 26 February 2006 Ghent, Belgium
1.97 metres 28 February 2006 Tallinn, Estonia
2.00 metres 27 January 2007 Brussels, Belgium
2.05 metres 3 March 2007 Birmingham, England
Heptathlon outdoor 6201 points 28 May 2006 Götzis, Austria


Olympic Games
Preceded by
Sébastien Godefroid
Flagbearer for  Belgium
London 2012
Succeeded by
Olivia Borlée
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