Madrid, SpainWorld and Olympic champion Carolina Klüft began competition in the Pentathlon of these 28th European Indoor Championships in very much the way she did at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham two years ago: with an assault on Irina Belova’s World record of 4991 points set 13 years ago.
The 22-year-old Swede got things off to a strong start with an 8.19 win in the 60 metre Hurdles, equaling the personal best she ran in Birmingham when she began her run towards her first world title. In the High Jump, she was perfect from her opening 1.75 through 1.87, and topped 1.90 on her second attempt, adding a centimeter to her indoor best. A first jump clearance at 1.93 followed, before three solid attempts – the last one tantalizingly close - at an absolute PB of 1.96 proved too much. Still, her two-event tally of 2231 points put her seven points ahead of Belova’s pace.
Shot Put dip
But Klüft’s momentum took a dip in the Shot Put, where she couldn’t manage better than a 13.29 toss, well shy from her 14.48 indoor best, and just the eighth best among the ten competitors that remain. While her 2978 point tally before her break for lunch is ten points ahead of record pace, her mediocre Shot Put performance may have doomed her unanticipated record run. Klüft and Belova share similar bests in the Long Jump, but Belova was clearly stronger in the final event, the 800 meters. Belova clocked 2:10.26 during her record in Berlin; Klüft’s indoor best is 2:14.95.
Ukraine’s Natalya Dobrynska, second to Klüft in Birmingham, is chasing her here as well. After an 8.42 in the Hurdles, the 22-yaer-old cleared 1.84 in the High Jump and reached 15.48 in the Shot Put for a three-event total of 2957 points, 34 points ahead of Vera Yepimashka. The Belorussian hopped into the top three after a 17.25 best in the Shot Put. Well within podium striking distance are German Sonja Kesselschlager (2837) and Britain’s Kelly Sotherton (2832), the Olympic bronze medallist. The Briton achieved indoor bests in the High Jump (1.81) and Shot Put (14.22).
60m – Arron’s hopes dashed by injury?
Besides the Swede’s World record pace in the Pentathlon, the major development of the championship’s first session came about ten steps into the second heat of the women’s 60 metre dash. Less than a third of the way into the race, pre-race favourite Christine Arron of France, who less than a week ago clocked a near-PB 7.10 in Lievin, pulled up to end her quest for the continental indoor title. A slight grimace, noticeable only on the race replay, was the only indication that the European 100m record holder may have sustained an injury.
Greek Yeoryia Kokloni was the fastest in the opening round after a surprise 7.14 clocking in heat four. The 23-year-old national champion knocked 3/100s from her personal best set three years ago. Well back in second was Russian Larisa Kruglova who reached the line in 7.27, just a tick ahead of Poland’s Daria Onysko.
Defending champion Kim Gevaert won heat three handily in 7.17, well ahead of Greek runner-up Maria Karastamati’s 7.25. Mariya Bolikova of Russia (7.30) and Linda Khodadin-Ferga (7.37) of France moved on as well.
Lost behind Arron’s apparent injury-induced departure was heat winner winner Heidi Hannula of Finland who equalled her 7.28 PB. German Marion Wagner was second in 7.31, just ahead of Russian Yekaterina Grigoryeva’s 7.33.
Nadine Hentschke of Germany took the first heat in 7.29, just 1/100 of a second ahead of Alena Neumiarzhytskaya of Belarus. Briton Jeannette Kwakye was third in 7.33 to advance easily as well.
400m surprise but Russians still look the business
The surprise of the morning’s 400m heats was Belarussian Sviatlana Usovich’s 51.35 clocking in heat three,the first national record set at these championships. The 24-year-old Usovich, a finalist at 800 metres at the 2003 World Indoor championships, eclipsed her previous best of 51.39 set last year in a powerful solo effort, finishing more than a second ahead of Pole Monika Bejnar’s 52.77 PB.
Svetlana Pospelova of Russia won heat two by half a second in 51.70, while Irina Rosikhina, another Russian, was the easy winner of the first heat, clocking 51.75. Behind her, Ilona Usovich clocked a 52.34 PB, and advanced as well. Filling out Saturday night’s final is Natalya Pygyda of Ukraine, who was third in heat three, reaching the line in 52.79. 16-year-old Danijela Grgic of Croatia, the youngest athlete at these championships, clocked a short-lived sub-53 second PB in the first heat, before being disqualified for a lane violation.
National record for Portugal
Naide Gomes, the reigning World Indoor Pentathlon champion, led all qualifiers in the Long Jump after an opening round 6.60 Portuguese national record. Anastasiya Ilyina of Russia had the day’s second farthest leap, with her second round 6.54. Latvian Ineta Radevica (6.51) was the only other jumper to reach beyond 6.50.
Nadzeya Astapchuk of Belarus took care of matters quickly to lead all qualifiers in the shot put. The 24-year-old, who took silver at the indoor and outdoor World Championships in 2003, reached 18.59 with her first throw. Russian Olga Ryabinkina, number two on the yearly list, was second best this morning as well with an 18.42 effort. No other throwers reached beyond 18 metres, with Olympic finalist Leija Tunks of the Netherlands closest with her 17.90 best, just ahead of German Nadine Beckel (17.84) and Italy’s Assunta Legnante (17.83). With a field of just 11 starters, only three women were kept from tomorrow afternoon’s final.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
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