Four-time world champion high jumper Blanka Vlasic has tasted highs as well as lows through her glittering career. The charismatic Croatian offers her words of wisdom.

1. It's a process

“Sure, we all have a destination, a goal; but it's all about those steps in between. When I won my first world title in Osaka it was one of the easiest competitions of my career because I had prepared for that moment my whole life. Once you're ready, you'll do it. But how do you reach that point?

“You can't go from 0 to 100 in a year. Be patient. Every training session and every competition is a part of a puzzle that can end up revealing a wonderful picture.

“The most important thing from the beginning is to learn a good technique. If you learn an incorrect technique it can lead to injury and it will not allow you to fulfil your potential. Later it is much harder to correct all the wrongs. It's a key starting point for everything else.”

Blanka Vlasic ()

Training in 2008, the year Vlasic won Olympic silver. The following year she cleared 2.08m in Zagreb – the second best jump in history

2. Learn to listen to your body

“You are not a machine! Even if sometimes you push too hard and get away with it, eventually your body will remember your impatience and charge you for it. And you want to enjoy a long career, not just one shiny moment, right?

“Rest is as important as training. You need to give your body a chance to process everything you do. Because as an athlete we always walk on a thin line between progress and injury, you need to respect that and try not to cross that line.

“Also, make sure you never skip the levels... like in a computer game. Make sure your muscles, ligaments and tendons are strong enough to handle all the hard specific stuff. Listen to your body, it will tell you how far you can go.”

Blanka Vlasic ()

Vlasic won a second outdoor world champs title at Berlin 2009. She also has two indoor world titles (Valencia 2008, Doha 2010)

3. Don't underestimate the power of defeat

“It sounds strange, but the most painful defeats in my career paved the way for my greatest victories. Once you fall, you are forced to reorganise and change your approach, not to mention that powerful motivational boost you get after you stop crying over your bad result.

“You would never see your weak points if you didn't slip over them from time to time. It's like a wake up call that will make you discover all those physical and mental reserves you still didn't use.”

Blanka Vlasic ()

After barely competing all season, Vlasic bounced back from injury to claim a remarkable silver medal at this year's Beijing World Championships

4. Stay humble

“Even if you're the best in the world, you're not God. The applause will eventually stop. If you have nothing inside you but your ego, that moment could hurt a lot.

“Your soul needs more than a gold medal to be fulfilled.”