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Kluft on course for heptathlon gold

August 21, 2004 01:21 IST

Swede Carolina Kluft took a big step towards adding Olympic gold to her 2003 world title when she ended the first day of the heptathlon with a commanding 240-point lead on Friday.

The 21-year-old Kluft, given noisy support from a mass of Swedes clustered together in the Olympic Stadium, got off to a solid start with a 13.21-second 100 metres hurdles and then produced the best high jump of the day, 1.91 metres, to hit the front after the opening morning of the athletics programme.

She then came out to deliver a 14.77-metre shot put, beating her personal best by more than half a metre, and completed her work with a 23.27-second 200 metres, the second fastest of the night.

It all added up to 4109 points, keeping her on course to again break the 7,000 point mark which only two others have managed in the event's history.

It was an impressive display from the rangy Swede and looks certain continue in Saturday's final three events -- long jump, which is her strongest discipline, javelin and 800 metres.

"I was satisfied with today -- it's a tough game and the heat was harder than I thought it would be," she said.

"By the end of the day my batteries were flat and I need a good sleep.

"The shot put was a lot of fun, I am beginning to like it more and more. The 200 was not perfect but you have to take into account the heat and that I was running in lane three."

Defending champion Denise Lewis, who has barely competed since Sydney due to a series of injuries, ended the day in ninth place.

However, after finishing with a weary-looking 25.42-second 200 metres, the Briton received treatment for what appeared a tight hamstring and she looks to be out of the medals hunt.

Her compatriot Kelly Sotherton, however, had a great day. Helped by a 1.85-metre high jump that beat her previous best by seven centimetres, she closed in second place on 3869.

Naide Gomes of Portugal had been second after three events but an awful 25.46 200 metres saw her slip to fourth on 3766 points, 11 behind Karen Ruckstuhl of the Netherlands.

There was a lucky escape for American Tiffany Lott Hogan, who was in 11th place after three events but failed to hear the starting gun for the 200 metres and stood up with her arm raised as the rest of her heat flew out of the blocks.

She left the track in tears but was then allowed to run in the following heat, though her time of 24.99 saw her slip to 16th overall.

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