Sweden’s Carolina Klüft, one of the world’s top all-around athletes, has decided to abandon the heptathlon. At the Beijing Olympics she will instead flex her muscles in the long and triple jump.
Jumping for joy. Carolina Klüft is happy about her decision to change focus at the 2008 Olympics. Photo: Scanpix
The decision had been hinted at on many occasions, and in March 2008 the multiple heptathlon champion Klüft decided it was time for a new focus.
Explaining her decision to local Swedish newspaper Smålandsposten, Klüft said: “I’ve done the heptathlon for a number of years. I really want to try something new. I want to focus on one or two other events. I want to feel fit in my body and not be exhausted week in and week out.”
Simple decision, tough job
Will she not miss the event she has excelled in so much? “Both yes and no,” Klüft says. “I’ve always loved the heptathlon. Maybe I’ll try it again in a few years, but right now I don’t have the motivation for heptathlon necessary for competing at the top level. That’s why the decision was simple.”
But Klüft has a tough task ahead. Though she has respectable long jump marks indoors and outdoors, 6.92 and 6.97 meters, respectively, the event has only brought her the relatively meager reward of a World Indoor Championships bronze and a fifth on the World Outdoor Championships lists. What are her aims for the 2008 Olympics?
“The long jump is going to be my main event. I hope to go over 7 meters, and then we’ll see. But I need another event to give me variety in training and to have another challenge.”
With a personal best of 1.95 meters, Klüft has decided to abandon the high jump — at least in Beijing. Photo: friidrott.se
Less media focus
Klüft’s longest triple jump in competition, and a Swedish record, is 14.29 meters (set on June 8, 2008). This distance may not keep the elite awake at night, but there have been rumors of her jumping much further in training. “On the other hand, I’ve never given my full attention to the triple jump before,” she says. “It’s a difficult event, but great fun.”
It is assumed that with her decision to abandon the heptathlon, Klüft is sacrificing a certain second Olympic gold medal. But it’s not the medals that she’s thinking about; she wants to take pleasure in what she does. “I’ve made the right decision,” she says. “Enjoying sport is important for me and I already feel that concentrating on the long and triple jump is going to be really enjoyable. Apart from that, it’s going to be really nice to have less media attention on me.”
There has been some speculation as to the effect this decision will have on Sweden’s hopes for the Olympics and the disappointment that athletics administrators and the general public might feel.
“I’m aware that expectations will be let down,” Klüft says, “but in the final analysis I can’t let myself worry about it. I have to make my own decision, do it with all my heart and live with the decision I’ve taken.”
Even though gold is always the ultimate goal, Klüft also wants to have fun while competing. Photo: friidrott.se
After three World Championship golds and an Olympic title in the heptathlon, Klüft is one of the greatest athletes of her generation. At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka she broke the 19-year-old European record to amass her highest heptathlon score ever of 7,032 points, a total only surpassed by American world record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee with her 7,291 points. Osaka represented Klüft’s 19th consecutive heptathlon win since 2001.
But isn’t a second Olympic gold really tempting? “When in ten year’s time I come to look back on my career, I will definitely not be thinking ‘be damned that I didn’t get a second Olympic gold’,” Klüft says. “I shall only be glad that I made my decision with my heart and did not listen too much to everyone else.”
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Michael Butcher is a freelance sports journalist, living in Worcester, United Kingdom. He specializes in athletics and will be reporting from the Beijing Olympics for the British press.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
The original version of this article can be found on the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF’s) website: www.iaaf.org
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