Iolanda Balaș (later Söter, Hungarian: Balázs Jolán, born 12 December 1936 in Timișoara) is a former Romanian athlete, Olympic champion and world record holder in high jump, who is considered one of the greatest high jumpers ever.
Balaș was born in Timișoara to ethnic Hungarian parents. Her mother, Etel Bozó was a homemaker, while her father, Frigyes, was originally a locksmith, who served in the Hungarian army, before he was captured and brought to the Soviet Union and later to Hungary, where he settled in Budapest. Balaș tried to reunite the family and move to Hungary, but although she managed to obtain the Hungarian passport in 1947, she was not allowed to leave the country. When asked in an interview in 2005, whether she was thinking about defection, she said that it came to her mind; however, that action could have resulted in serious retaliation against her relatives she would have left behind, and she did not want that.
After finishing fifth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, she won two Olympic gold medals at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964. Between 1957 and 1966, Balaș won 150 consecutive competitions, not including qualifying competitions or exhibitions. She improved the world record 14 times, from 1.75 m to 1.91 m, and equalled it once outdoors and once indoors. She was the first woman to jump over six feet. Her technique was a sophisticated version of the scissors technique.
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.