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Kluft crowned queen of heptathlon

August 22, 2004 16:27 IST

Carolina Kluft was crowned the queen of heptathlon on Saturday after blowing away the field to add Olympic gold to the world title she won last year.

The 21-year-old Swede totally dominated the seven-discipline, two-day event and her final winning total of 6,952 points was a mammoth 517 clear of her nearest rival.

Austra Skujyte of Lithuania took silver with a personal best 6,435 points while Briton Kelly Sotherton was third, an agonising 11 points adrift on 6,424 as her front-running victory in the final 800 metres heat came up just short.

But the day was all about Kluft, who is still learning many of the skills that combine to make the toughest event of the women's athletics programme yet continues to destroy her more experienced rivals.

"I've had a wonderful year, generally free from injury," she said. "I knew I could do well but I just went out there to have fun.

"Usually, if I give it my best and have fun then it turns out well."

Only Kluft, world record holder Jackie Joyner Kersee and Russia's Larisa Nikitina have gone over the 7,000 points barrier. Kluft had that target in sight again when she began the second day on 4,109 points.

She had a scare though in the long jump, her strongest event, when she fouled her first attempt.

Memories of last year's world championship, when the title was in danger of slipping from her grasp after she fouled her first two efforts, were certainly on her mind.

"I didn't think it was a foul and I'd tried to take it safe but it didn't work out," she said.

Her second attempt was a cautious 6.54 metres which left her free to let loose on her last jump, a best-of-field 6.78 for a huge 1,099 points.

Sotherton cut it even finer, fouling her first two before rescuing her medal hopes with a 6.51 final attempt. Defending champion Denise Lewis of Britain, who has suffered an injury-ravaged four years since her Sydney success and was never in contention, withdrew after the long jump.

Kluft launched her third javelin attempt 48.89 metres to extend her lead further, meaning she had only to safely negotiate the 800 metres for the title.

Sotherton made all the running in the final heat containing the leaders but Kluft, after initially keeping clear of the battle for minor medals, was not far behind as she posted two minutes 14.15 in third. It was enough to secure the gold though not quite enough to break the 7,000 barrier.

Kluft was immediately mobbed by a group of Swedish fans, including her sister, who had given her great support during the competition and she completed her lap of honour to the loudspeaker accompaniment of Dancing Queen, the anthem of fellow Swedes Abba.

Skujyte said she "could not be happier" with silver, after digging deep in the home straight of the 800 to stay just close enough to Sotherton.

The Briton, who praised Lewis for all the help she had given her in the last year, was not quite so pleased.

"I know I'm supposed to be happy with a bronze but I was one second away from a silver and I can't help feeling disappointed," she said.

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