The Talented Ms. Kluft

I’ve always enjoyed watching Carolina Kluft because of her good looks, competitive intensity and the sheer enjoyment she exudes:

When I first learned the news that the 2004 Olympic heptathlon champion, Carolina Kluft, was withdrawing from the multi-events to focus on the long jump, I was dumbfounded. I could not comprehend her decision. This came at a time when Swedish athletics was not as strong as it was back in 2004. The great high jumpers, Stefan Holm and Kajsa Berqvist, had retired. Christian Olsson, the 2004 Olympic triple jump champion, was sidelined by career-threatening injury.

She was at the top of the pack, having been undefeated for 6 long years. She has won every conceivable prize in the heptathlon (and the indoor equivalent, the pentathlon). Needless to say, she was the Scandinavian country’s foremost Olympic hope.

Here’s a rundown of Kluft’s major victories:

  1. Olympic Gold (2004)
  2. World Championships Gold (2003, 2005 and 2007)
  3. World Indoor Championships Gold (2003)
  4. European Championships Gold (2002 and 2006)
  5. European Indoor Championships Gold (2005 and 2007)

All-in-all, she had won 9 major championship gold medals. The only milestone missing from her career is the world record. Her personal best of 7,032 points is bettered only by the legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Kluft winning the European Gold on home soil:

Highlights of her European record set in the 2007 Osaka World Championships:

And yet, she gave it all up to focus on the long jump.

The answer to her unexpected decision was surprisingly simple. She was “running on empty,” according to an interview with Universal Sports. “I was very torn with the feeling that I still wanted to try to beat my personal best but I didn’t enjoy it as much,” said Kluft. “And for me if I’m not enjoying it, it’s just painful.”

She’s every inch the professional. But then again, she still embodies the purity of amateurism, where one’s love for the sport takes precedence. For Kluft, it wasn’t about the cash prize, the prestige or the world record. She already has her fair share of fame, she says in the interview. For Kluft, the entire point of participating in sports is the joy of training – the chase to better oneself.

Kluft has just returned from a 10-month break due to injury. Although she has failed to meet the entry standards for this July’s European Championships in Barcelona, she was given a wild card, judging from her stellar track record.

With Russian long jumpers leaping over 7 meters, Kluft will be hard-pressed to make it to the podium. But hey, she loves the challenge. Surely, Kluft is thriving inside, bursting with that subtly powerful yet relaxing feeling of competing without pressure – as an underdog, for a change.

“The sport is still the most important thing. I love to train, I love to challenge myself, I love to compete. A big goal for everyone is to live a life that you really enjoy and that you feel when you’re going to die that I’ve done what I can do to improve myself.” – Carolina Kluft

Additional links

Universal Sports

Tom Fordyce’s BBC blog

Photo credits:

Barcelona 2010

Tribune India

IAAF

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4 responses to “The Talented Ms. Kluft

  1. Pingback: Kluft makes it to Euro Champs long jump final « hurdler49: Hurdling the Real World.

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  3. Pingback: Same Old Caro « hurdler49: Hurdling the Real World.

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