What the Klüft


Klüft - trying to put thoughts of Athens to the back of her mind

Friday 2 April 2004

Within just five months of the start of the Olympic Games, Sweden’s Carolina Klüft only thinks about Athens rarely. For now, there is the prospect of two Heptathlon competitions before August.

“Everyone is different,” says the World and European champion. “Despite there being so many events, the Heptathlon is actually a very individual thing. Some people might want to do just one of them before the Olympics, others more. I have chosen to do two knowing that I will feel good within myself when I arrive in Greece.”

Her first competition comes at the end of next month in Gotzis, Austria, where, among others, she will meet Denise Lewis, of Britain, the Olympic champion from Sydney, and whose title the Swedish sensation Klüft is favourite to take.

But she is hardly showing the pressure you might expect from a woman who is set to become one of the biggest stars of these Olympics.

“I will refuse to feel extra pressure,” she says. "And I hope and I am sure when I am out there I will not have any extra pressure. The Olympics will be so much fun. Four years ago, I watched it on television and now I will be there competing.”

"I don’t see it as a pressure, more of ‘wow, it will be so cool to be there’. I am focused on my life, my training, my family and friends. I have so much positive support from the people around me and that is a good thing to have.”

“But the reason I don’t expect pressure is because I am not afraid to not succeed. If I don’t, I will learn something from that, I have many years in front of me, I can take positive out of it and do it good next time. I do my best to have fun.”

Kluft, 21, has built up quite a record since the flame was extinguished on the Olympics in Australia in 2000.

A few weeks after the Games, she won gold at the World Junior Championships in Santiago, the start of a run of success that has seen her win the European Junior title, in 2001, and retain her World Junior crown in Kingston in the July of 2002. That summer also saw her dramatic entrance onto the senior stage with gold at the European Championships in Munich. The following winter the World Indoor Pentathlon title fell to her, and then the Heptathlon victory in Paris last summer, winning the World Championships with a score of 7001. Only two other women have broken the 7000 points barrier.

In Budapest last month, she was third in the individual Long Jump at the World Indoor Championships - leaving the track on a stretcher with injury but, typically, smiling - and she plans to do both that individual event at the Heptathlon in Athens.

But, for now, she has no plans to chase the World record of 7291 set by American Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

“When I am competing I don’t think about the World record or even winning a medal,” she says. "That’s not why I do this. I do this because I enjoy it, and I will do this until I don’t like it any more - or it doesn’t like me any more.”

“I will never have that kind of goal because if I don’t beat the World record, I will not keep going until I beat it. If I don’t find it is fun, then I will quit. But I see myself doing this for quite many years.”

Succeed or not in Athens, she will be talked about even before the action begins. On a flying visit to London this week, her body was cast for a model that is likely to be used in the opening ceremony to replicate the Parthenon Friezes that once adorned the Acropolis. And even she could not help think about Athens while that was taking place.

by an IAAF correspondent