by Alison Wildey
LONDON, Aug 4- Field events are set to dominate proceedings at next week’s European championships in Sweden with home athletes Carolina Kluft, high jumper Kajsa Bergqvist and triple jumper Christian Olsson defending their titles.
Olympic and world heptathlon champion Kluft skipped the indoor season after suffering leg cramps in a bid to remain injury free for the championships.
The decision appears to have paid off with the 23-year-old winning both the heptathlons she has competed in since her world title in Helsinki last August.
I have been having a problem with my hamstring due to overuse ... the hamstring is getting better and this competition was good for it,'' Kluft said after her victory at the European Cup combined events super league last month. I am confident that I will be in my best shape for the European athletics championships in Gothenburg.’’
Kluft will come up against France’s Eunice Barber, whom she beat to the world championship gold in an epic two-day battle despite carrying an ankle injury.
The pair are due to extend their rivalry to the long jump, an event at which Barber was 2003 world champion, although both are likely to lose out to Russians Lyudmila Kolchanova and Oksana Udmutova, who are the only women over seven metres this year.
Olympic triple jump champion Olsson will just be glad to be competing at a major championships after missing last season with an ankle injury that needed four operations.
Olsson made his comeback after 21 months out in June and the 26-year-old has bounded back into form with the leading jump by a European this year of 17.62.
Swedish duo Bergqvist and Stefan Holm are favourites for the high jump titles.
Bergqvist set an indoor world record of 2.08 metres in February but pulled out of the world indoor championships a month later with an ankle injury.
In the men’s event, Olympic champion Holm comes up against Russian Yaroslav Rybakov, who denied him gold at the 2002 Europeans and also won the world indoor championships in March.
Women’s pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva has so far had a patchy season by her high standards and was beaten on countback by Poland’s Monika Pyrek in Stockholm last week.
Four days later though, the world and Olympic champion cleared 4.91 – the best vault this year – for victory in London.
Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, in his final season, bids to win the only major title that has eluded the 40-year-old three-times Olympic and world champion in an illustrious career.
On the track, Portugal’s European 100 metres champion Francis Obikwelu lines up against Briton Dwain Chambers, .
The 46-year-old Merlene Ottey, formerly of Jamaica and now competing for Slovenia, will be up against Olympic champion Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus in the women’s 100.
Absentees include Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who decided not to defend her 10,000 metres title because she is pregnant, and Greece’s European sprint champions Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who are suspended from competition until December 22.
by Alison Wildey