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ATHLETICS

Golden girl Klüft claims European record

Sweden's Carolina Klüft ran, jumped and flexed her muscles to win a record third straight world heptathlon gold medal Sunday and dismissed talk that she was on the verge of retiring.

Golden girl Klüft claims European record
Photo: Bildbyrån/SVT

The 24-year-old golden girl, unbeaten in the event since 2002, finished with a total of 7,032 points over two hot and humid days – breaking her personal best of 7,001 which she set in winning her first world title in 2003.

It was also a new European record and the world’s best this year.

Rejoycing in the victory, Klüft backed down on her earlier comment that she might stop competing in the heptathlon after the Beijing Olympics, or possibly here, to concentrate on single-sport events.

“I’ll definitely continue what I’m doing. How long I’ll do this? I have no idea. As long as it’s fun and as long as I have the motivation, I’ll continue with the heptathlon,” she said.

“I’m just happy with my victory. It’s amazing to have the personal record and to win at the same time.”

Asked about her Olympic plan, she shot back: “I’ll definitely have a week off now and I’ll continue to do this season. And then I’ll try to do my plans for Beijing.”

World indoor champion Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine finished second with 6,832 points and Britain’s Kelly Sotherton was third with 6,510. Another Briton Jessica came in fourth at 6,409.

Klüft, the reigning Olympic champion is now unbeaten in 18 heptathlons along with three five-sport pentathlons.

Her new personal best remains a far cry from the world record of 7,291 set by the late American Jackie Joyner Kersee at the 1988 Olympics, a mark the two-time has European champion vowed not to challenge.

She ended the first day with a 4,162-4,014 lead over Blonska after the 100m hurdles, the high jump, the 200m dash and the shot put.

Klüft, a world-class long jumper in her own right, was outdone by Blonska in the event where the 29-year-old Ukrainian produced the leap of her life at 6.88 against 6.85 for the Swede.

But Blonska, who narrowly lost to Klüft by 6,681-6,626 points at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Gotzis in May, could not close the gap in the javelin and the 800m, the events in neither excel.

Both Blonska and Sotherton admitted Klüft, whose exuberance and friendliness has made her popular among fellow athletes and fans, had been a guiding light in the energy-sapping sport.

“Character matters in the multi-sport event and Carolina’s performance and results have inspired us to follow her and do as well,” Blonska said.

“I will continue striving to catch up with her as Carolina is such a big character.”

Sotherton, 30, said: “The weather has been a factor here but everybody ignored the conditions, trying to break their personal bests.

“I didn’t think 7,000 (points) would be possiblle. Now, I’m proud to be in the 7,000 event,” she said. “It shows how tough it will be in the Olympics next year.”

ATHLETICS

Sweden’s Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold

Sweden's Meraf Bahta held off a late challenge from hot favourite Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands to win the 5,000m final at the European Athletic Championships in Zurich on Saturday.

Sweden's Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold
Photo: TT

The promise of Dutch delight turned to despair – and ultimately silver and bronze consolation – in the dramatic closing stages of the women's 5,000m final on the penultimate day of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

"With 100m to go I knew that nobody could beat me," said Bahta.

"I was never afraid to lose the duel with Hassan. This is my first time running for Sweden. It is great for me to hear the anthem for the first time."

Less than 24 hours after winning the 1500m final (on a night when Dafne Schippers completed a 100m sprint double), Sifan Hassan was closing on what would have been a famous double of her own and a record-equalling fourth for the Netherlands as she surged from seventh at the bell to the shoulder of Sweden's Meraf Bahta coming into the home straight.

A similar tactic had won the 21-year-old Ethiopian-born woman her metric mile crown in convincing fashion but this time she came up against an unyielding rival in Bahta.

The Eritrean refugee had pushed the pace from two laps out and dug deep to hold on for victory in 15min 31.39sec.

Hassan had to be content with silver, finishing 0.40sec, with her Dutch team-mate Susan Kuijken coming through for bronze and Jo Pavey, the 40-year-old 10,000m winner from Great Britain, down in sevent

The battle for first place in the medal table edged marginally in favour of France after wins for Renaud Lavillenie in the men's pole vault and Christelle Daunay in the women's marathon.

They have seven golds now, the same tally as Britain, but with 18 medals in all, three more than their rivals.

Lavillenie has been untouchable in 2014 and the Olympic champion extended his winning streak to a 20th competition with just two vaults.

After entering at 5.65m and clearing that at the first attempt, the Frenchman just needed a second time success at 5.90 to claim the gold.

He did, however, attempt to achieve his first 6m-plus vault of the outdoor season but registered three failures at  6.01m – 15cm shy of the world record he set indoors in Donetsk in February.

Daunay is not quite a member of the Fortysomething club – she turns 40 in December – but the French marathon runner maintained the gold standard for the older guard in Zurich, pulling clear after halfway to win the 26.2 mile event in 2 hr 25min 14sec – 13 seconds ahead of the 38-year-old Italian Valeria Straneo.

Farther down the field, there was a race within the race to become the first finisher between 28-year-old triplets from Estonia. It was won by Liina Luik, 29th in 2:41:18. Leila Luik was 43rd and Lily Luik 47th.

The seventh British gold came in the women's 400m hurdles. Favourite Eilidh Child held on for victory in 54.48sec, 0.08sec ahead of the fast-finishing Ukrainian Anna Titimets.

However, Child's fellow Scottish Commonwealth Games silver medallist Lynsey Sharp was unable to hang on after going our hard and fast in a bold defence of her 800m title.

She was caught and passed 80m from the line by Maryna Arzamasova, the Belarus athlete prevailing in 1 min 58.15sec. The consolation for Sharp was not just the silver but also a Scottish record: 1:58.80.

In the women's discus Croatia's Sandra Perkovic, the reigning world and Olympic champion, claimed gold with a 71.08m world lead and national record in the fifth round.

The men's hammer was a dramatic affair, Olympic champion Krisztian Parrs requiring a world leading throw of 82.69m in the final round to retain his title.

In the women's triple jump Ukraine's Olha Saladukha completed a hat-trick of titles, a second round effort of 14.73m edging out Russian Yekaterina Koneva by just 4cm.

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