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ATHLETICS

Klüft declines to defend heptathlon title

Swedish champion Carolina Klüft said in an interview published on Wednesday she would not defend her heptathlon title at the Beijing Games this summer following injury problems.

Klüft declines to defend heptathlon title
Photo: Adam Ihse/Scanpix

“I understand that a lot of people will not understand the decision and will contest it but the motivation is not sufficiently there for the heptathlon,” Klüft told Svenska Dagbladet, adding she would still take part in the long jump and triple jump.

“The decision was tough and yet at the same time a simple one. I had been thinking about it for some time,” the 25-year-old explained.

“I had a chat with myself, and followed what my heart said,” she added.

“The triple jump is not my speciality. But I think it’s good to try out new disciplines,” Klüft said.

“I would never have changed if I didn’t believe in it and if I didn’t believe I could do very well in these disciplines,” Klüft added of her revised Beijing plans.

Last year she won an unprecedented third world championship crown but her recent fitness problems forced a rethink.

Klüft has dominated the multi-events scene, pocketing every title since winning the World Championship gold medal in 2003.

In the long jump her personal best is 6.85m – Galina Chistyakova set the world mark of 7.52m in 1988 – but the Swede could only manage 6.46m over the winter.

Nonetheless, Klüft, who was to expand on her decision later Wednesday at a press conference, explained her change of heart was providing motivation in itself.

“Now I am looking forward to something else and have rediscovered my motivation. It’s risky, I know, but it just seems so right,” said Klüft, who experienced an earlier injury heartbreak with thigh cramps which forced her to miss the 2006 worlds.

She won the pentathlon in her only indoor worlds in 2003.

Her only defeat in the combined events goes back to the 2002 European championships, when she placed third before winning continental indoor titles in 2005 and 2007.

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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