New horizons for heptathlon queen Klüft
The Local · 7 Jul 2008, 11:20
Published: 07 Jul 2008 11:20 GMT+02:00
The Olympic heptathlon champion in Athens is planning to compete in the long jump and triple jump in China.
The switch in disciplines is partly due to fitness worries which have beset the 25-year-old in the past year, but there is also a strong mental aspect with her father Johnny Kluft saying his daughter is rediscovering her motivation.
"Right now she is training a bit less because of the reduction in disciplines, and she is feeling less tired than before," he told AFP.
"It is an unbelievable challenge for her and she is aiming to do her best. Before, she had won everything and she was starting to get bored."
The athlete herself explained her decision in terms of motivation.
"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," she said in a Swedish newspaper interview earlier this year.
"The decision was tough and yet at the same time a simple one. I had been thinking about it for some time. I had a chat with myself and followed what my heart said."
Klüft's extraordinary achievements started at the age of 12 when she came home from school and announced to her parents she could jump higher than her classmates.
By 17 she bagged her first major title at the world youth championships in Chile.
Since then she has gone on to be world heptathlon champion three times, (in 2003, 2005 and 2007) as well as Olympic gold medallist in 2004.
She has been European champion twice (2002, 2006). More recently, Klüft achieved gold twice (2005, 2007) at the European Indoor Championships in a different discipline, the pentathlon.
Her top heptathlon score of 7,032 points is second only to the all time womens' record set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States.
The athlete, born in Borås in western Sweden, has a formidable pedigree of sporting achievement.
Her mother was one of Sweden's leading long jumpers in the 1970's, while her father Johnny was a professional footballer who spent much of his career playing in the Swedish first division.
Klüft has been working hard on her two chosen specialities and is currently ranked 8th in the world in long jump, one of the seven disciplines included in the heptathlon.
Last month at the European Cup event in Istanbul, she jumped 6.87 metres, 10 cm short of her personal best and she hopes to improve on that distance before heading out to Beijing.
But the Swede has yet to show she can win on the biggest of stages in the highly technical triple-jump finishing fourth in a recent meeting in Istanbul.
The 1.78 meter (5.10 ft) tall athlete is currently enrolled at Växjö University where she is studying peace and development. In September 2007 she married pole vaulter Patrick Kristiansson.
AFP's Pauline Conradsson