It was billed as a daylong, five-event battle. But Carolina Kluft turned the women's Pentathlon at the 9th World Indoor Championships in Birmingham yesterday into a procession from the first discipline, as the 20-year-old Swede far exceeded her previous performances and showed her older, more experienced rivals that she is likely to be a multi-event force to reckon with for some time to come.
At her first attempt, Kluft today won the IAAF World Indoor title, scoring a championship best 4933pts, notching up four personal bests along the way.
Yet Kluft still wants more. She showed that intent by the way she set off in the final discipline, the 800m, a young woman with a PB of 2:14 going through the first lap in just over 31sec. "Yes," she said, excitedly, draped in her national flag, "maybe I did go too quickly on the first lap and it took too much out of me."
It was the only time all day that the exuberance of Kluft's youth overwhelmed the abundance of her athletic talents. And the confidence in her own ability that oozes from the two-time IAAF World Junior champion showed immediately afterwards.
"I am not too disappointed about not getting the world record," she said, adding sharply, "I am so young, I am sure I'll get a shot at it again sometime."
Kluft had surprised many last summer when, after retaining her IAAF World Junior heptathlon title and setting a world junior best in Kingston, Jamaica, the teenager then took on her senior rivals at the European championships in Munich, surpassing her junior world record and taking the gold medal there.
"It is a dream to be world champion," she said, having put the seal on her emergence as a formidable multi-event force for years to come.
She suggests that her inexperience, perhaps naivete, helps her avoid being overly concerned about her rivals. "I never bother checking my opponents," Kluft said. "I knew Natalya Sazanovich," she said of the defending World Indoor champion who she had just defeated comprehensively, "but otherwise, I never know what to expect."
Nor did the spectators at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, as Kluft, a brilliant competitor, managed to pull out outstanding performance after outstanding performance through the day, from her initial personal best in winning the 60m Hurdles (8.19sec/1086pts), followed by victory in the High Jump (1.89m/1093pts), a tremendous fightback in the Shot Put (14.48m/826pts), and a third victory in the Long Jump (6.61m/1043pts) to set her up for her attempt on the world best in the gruelling 800m (2min 15.58sec/885pts) for the second best point score in history, and only Sweden's fourth World Indoor gold medal.
"I was nervous before the 800, although I hope I didn't show it," she said. "I knew 2:11..." her target time for the world best, "...was not impossible.
"I came here to get good results, and I got four PBs. I was especially happy about the Shot Put, because I have had some problems with that."
The words 'problem' and 'can't' do not seem to exist in Carolina Kluft's vocabulary.
Steven Downes for the IAAF