Saturday, 25 August 2007

Event report: Women's Heptathlon - 800m

A third Heptathlon World title to add to her Olympic gold medal must surely entitle Carolina Kluft, at 24, to be considered as the greatest all-round woman athlete ever, even though Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s world record has continued to elude her.

Kluft finally managed to exceed her personal best, set in Paris in 2003 when winning this title for the first time, completing her arduous two-day procession in Osaka’s steamy heat with an 800m run in 2min 12.56sec to finish with a total of 7,032.

It was one of seven personal bests, including two other national records, the first of which was set by Lyudmila Blonska, of Ukraine, with 6832 for the silver medal.

The battle for the bronze went to Britain’s Kelly Sotherton, who had to front-run the final heat not only to overtake the points tally of Austra Skuyjte, of Lithuania, but also to hold off her 21-year-old team mate, Jessica Ennis, who won the final event in 2:11.39.

Skuyjte would concede that the 800m is not her strongest event, and she trailed the race from the gun. Down the home straight, as her rivals began to pull away from her by the stride, fatigue overtook her determination. The Lithuanian staggered across the finishing line knowing that her medal chance had gone.

In fact, her performance saw her lose three places, dropping behind Sotherton, Ennis and Germany’s Lilli Schwarzkopf, who also ran a respectable 2:12.76. As Kluft led her heptathlon gang on a collective lap of honour, Skuyjte cut a forlorn, lonely figure, walking alone behind her fellow athletes.

There was always an inevitability about the outcome of the gold medal here. Without the ankle injury that had threatened her defence two years ago in Helsinki, here we were able to see Kluft close to her best.

Of late, there have been reports that she may be considering a new challenge after the Beijing Olympics next year: did she drop a hint about her future during the victory lap when she popped over one of the barriers laid out for the 400m hurdles?

For Sotherton, after her third place at the Athens Olympics, her bronze medal here was some degree of redemption. Her Javelin throwing still lets her down, but by scoring 6510 to Ennis’s 6469, she at least reclaimed the status as British No1.

Final standings:

1, Kluft 7032
2, Blonska 6832
3, Sotherton 6510

Osaka 2007 News Team/sd

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