Golden girl Klüft claims European record

Golden girl Klüft claims European record
Photo: Bildbyrån/SVT
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.

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.”