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Klüft looking for perfect end to her reign

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Klüft looking for perfect end to her reign
Photo: Björn Bergman, http://www.photo2be.com
07:36 CEST+02:00
Sweden's Olympic and world heptathlon gold medallist Carolina Klüft will be hoping the 2007 world championships are to be the beginning of a perfect end to her reign.

But the competition has proven tough this season for Klüft, unbeaten since 2000 in the heptathlon, who plans to quit the seven-sport spectacle at major championships after the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"I have goals left but I can't do the heptathlon for ever," the 24-year-old "Golden Girl" said in June.

"After Beijing I plan to compete in singles events, probably the long jump which is my best event."

The well-balanced queen of athletes, 1m78 (5ft10) and 65kg (143 lbs), is aiming for a third straight world title in Osaka and a second Olympic gold in Beijing. She also has 2002 and 2006 European titles in her trophy cabinet.

But she faced a tough test in May when she narrowly won the heptathlon at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Götzis.

Klüft outlasted world indoor champion Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine by 6,681 to 6,626 points in the two-day competition in which the top 15 scored more than 6,000 points.

"I hope for more (points)," said the blonde, whose exuberance and friendliness has made her popular among fellow athletes and fans.

"It was the hardest fight. But I think it's nice when there is a close fight because it's good for the crowd.

"I want to have more time for recovery before Osaka," she said adding that Götzis was her last multi-event competition before coming here.

Earlier in March, she was pushed in a down-to-the-wire battle by Kelly Sotherton in the five-sport pentathlon at the European indoor championships on the Briton's home turf in Birmingham. Klüft won with 4,944 points to 4,927 for Sotherton.

Another threat may come from French veteran and 1999 world champion Eunice Barber, 32, who finished second behind Klüft at the 2003 and 2005 world championships.

The Sierra Leone-born Barber also won the individual long jump at the 2003 championships in Paris.

Barber, who lost to Klüft by only 63 points at the 2005 worlds in Helsinki, failed to avenge the Swede at the European championships last year because she had to pull out with a hip injury after just two disciplines.

After training in the United States, Barber has tried only individual events this season with no plans to compete in the heptathlon before Osaka.

"I haven't done everything I wanted so far because of a slight hamstring pain but the main thing was to still work," she said when she finished seventh in a 200m dash at a European event in Lille, France, in June.

At the IAAF Super Grand Prix in Lausanne last month, Klüft leapt 6.84 metres to win the long jump with Barber fourth at 6.37m.

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