After a dramatic downtothewire battle with Birmingham’s own Kelly Sotherton, Carolina Kluft yet again illustrated why she is considered the finest women’s all-around athlete in the world after her thrilling victory in the Pentathlon to cap the first day of the 29th European Indoor Athletics Championships.
Kluft: 'I couldn't have done it without Kelly'
“What a great competition to win,” said Kluft, who tallied 4944 points to solidify her No. 3 position on the event’s all-time list. “It was very hard right from the start and Kelly pushed all the time in every event. It definitely was very, very tough. I couldn’t have done it without Kelly.”
Kluft, second after the day’s first three events, wrestled the lead from Sotherton during the Long Jump, where she reached a season’s best 6.59 with her final effort. For her part Sotherton jumped 6.51, also on her final attempt, to enter the final event just 24 points behind Kluft’s 4023 point tally. With a season’s best 6.50 leap of her own, Karin Ruckstuhl moved into third, another 68 back.
To score the upset over her long-time rival, Sotherton needed to beat the Swede by approximately 1.6 seconds in the 800 metres, and despite churning to a personal best 2:12.54 victory, Kluft simply responded as she knows best: with a personal best 2:13.04 of her own to win by just 17 points to become the first two-time winner of the event at the European Indoor Championships.
But Sotherton, who also finished second behind Kluft two years ago, made significant strides in narrowing the gap Kluft had become accustomed to. Her 4927 point tally elevated Sotherton to No. 4 all-time, and shattered her own Commonwealth record by nearly 200 points.
“It would have been great to have won,” Sotherton told the appreciative crowd, “But I have the Olympic and World champion and the best-ever woman athlete to compete against.”
After a strong late afternoon and evening, Ruckstuhl held on to third to claim the bronze with a 4801 tally, a Dutch national record which landed her on the verge of the event’s top-10. Lithuanian Austra Skujyte edged Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska by just a single point, 4740 to 4739, to take fourth, national records for both. British newcomer Jessica Ennis, was sixth with a 4716 tally, adding more than 300 points to her career best.
Cool Kallur defends 60m Hurdles title
The first women’s title of the championships went to another Swede with a defence on the line. After a self-professed terrible start, Susanna Kallur regrouped to take her second 60 metre Hurdles title in 7.87.
“It’s really great and I can’t believe it after that bad start!” said the 26-year-old, who became the first back-to-back winner at these championships since Frenchwoman Patricia Girard’s successful defence in 1998, and the eighth woman to defend the 60m Hurdles title.
Almost last from the blocks, Kallur worked her way through the field and didn’t catch early leader Alexsandra Antonova until the pair, side-by-side, approached the final barrier. “It shows that I’m in good shape that I was able to come back and win.”
Antonova, a two-time defending Russian indoor champion who won six of seven mainly domestic competitions in her build up to Birmingham this winter, was second in 7.94, while German Kirsten Bolm edged another Russian, Irina Shevchenko, to take third for the third consecutive championships, 7.97 to 8.01. Further back, Briton Sarah McGreacey was fifth in 8.04.
Kallur was explosive in the semi-finals that opened the evening’s action, cruising to a world-leading 7.84, finishing ahead of Shevchenko, who equalled her career best of 7.90. “There are only two rounds so there’s not much to save energy for,” Kallur said. “I just had to go for it.”
Ceplak leads 800m qualifiers, Harewood sustains serious injury
There were no major surprises in the opening round of the women’s 800 metres, but there was plenty of drama after a horrendous pile-up left bodies scattered about the track in the second heat.
Just as she passed the midway point, Briton Karen Harewood was tripped from behind by Russian Mariya Shapayeva, fell hard to track and eventually caused Eleni Filandra of Greece and Portugal’s Maria Carmo Tavares to the ground as well. More than 20 minutes would pass before a team of nine carried the 30-year-old Harewood from the track; the initial prognosis was a fractured left femur.
When the dust settled, only world leader Tetyana Petlyuk (2:05.44) and Brigita Langerholc (2:05.95), Slovenia’s No. 2, finished, and by default, subsequently advanced. Shapayeva, who was third at this year’s Russian indoor championships, continued the race after regaining her balance and finished, but was later disqualified.
Jolanda Ceplak, who lowered the World record to 1:55.82 en route to the 2002 continental indoor title, took control of the fourth heat and maintained it through the finish to win the fourth heat in 2:02.82, the afternoon’s fastest performance.
“We were waiting so long to start,” said Ceplak, also the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist over the distance. “I couldn’t really do anything and it affected my preparation. And we really didn’t get to warm up.”
Russia’s Oksana Zbrozhek was the easy winner of the first heat in 2:03.67, with Briton Marilyn Okoro advancing as well, while Aneta Lemiesz of Poland and Jenny Meadows, another Briton, moved on from heat three. With Ceplak’s pacing assistance, everyone in the third heat moved on as well to Saturday afternoon’s semi-final round.
The main casualty of the opening round was Bulgarian record holder Teodora Kolarova, who late last month fell just shy of dipping beneath the two-minute barrier.
No surprises in the 1500
Perhaps using the rumble-tumble of the women’s 800 opening round as a guide, Briton Helen Cliterhoe led virtually from the gun with Slovenia’s Sonja Roman following as the two led all qualifiers in the semi-finals of the 1500.
“It was very important to get through to the final without any problems,” said Roman, who swept past Clitheroe over the final 10 metres to win in 4:10.68.
Lidia Chojecka of Poland cruised to victory in the seconds and slower heat to take the first step towards her 1500/3000 double, while no significant entrants failed to advance.
Usovich and Sanders take the 400m Semis
World leader Nicola Sanders (51.06) of Great Britain was the easy winner in the second of two 400m semi-finals, while Ilona Usovich of Belarus cruised to a personal best 51.23 victory in the first to emerge as the pair to beat. Notable was Grazyna Prokopek’s 52.00 Polish national record.
With a 1.93 clearance needed to make the cut into tomorrow's final, all the key players in the women’s High Jump met with little difficulty, setting up one of the weekend’s most anticipated finals. In the Triple Jump, Adelina Gavrila led all qualifies with her 14.24 first round leap, while a modest 13.87 effort was enough to move on to Sunday’s final.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
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