Tia Hellebaut (Dutch: [ˈɦɛləbɔut]; born 16 February 1978 in Antwerp) is a retired Belgian track and field athlete, who started out in the heptathlon, but afterwards specialized in the high jumpevent. 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.
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.
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 x 100 m relay.
On 5 December 2008, Hellebaut announced her pregnancy and her retirement from professional athletics, and started 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, on her 32nd birthday. Hellebaut will exclusively concentrate on high jump, and aims to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Just a couple of weeks 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.
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. She was the flag bearer of Belgium during the 2012 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations. She ended fifth in the high jump competition.
On 6th March 2013, after the European Indoor Championships in Goteborg, she announced her second retirement, saying that she cannot longer challenge herself mentally in competition.