Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Sweden's Kluft dominates pentathlon to take the gold

AP , ATHENS

European champion in 2002, world champion in 2003 and now Olympic champion in 2004.

Sweden's 21-year-old Carolina Kluft lived up to her superstar billing on Saturday by winning the heptathlon gold medal in dominant fashion.

Abba's Dancing Queen blared from the loudspeakers as Kluft did a victory lap around the 70,000-seat Olympic stadium. She was mobbed by Swedish fans and received a warm hug from Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg, who put the gold medal around her neck.

Kluft came within 48 points of becoming only the second athlete to break the 7,000-point barrier in the Olympics, finishing with 6,952.

The only heptathlete to break the 7,000 mark at the Olympics was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who achieved the feat in 1988 in Seoul and 1992 in Barcelona.

Kluft finished the seven events with a huge 517-point advantage over 25-year-old Austra Skujyte of Lithuania, who had a personal-best 6,435 points to become the first woman from the former Baltic republic to win an Olympic medal. Britain's Kelly Sotherton got the bronze with 6,424.

Defending Olympic champion Denise Lewis of Britain pulled out before the final two events. She only recently returned to competition after an ankle injury and had dropped to 18th after the long jump.

Kluft, who came in as the overwhelming favorite, hasn't lost a heptathlon in three years. She scored 7,001 points at the worlds in Paris last year, the third highest total in history.

Kluft, who held a 240-point lead after Friday's first four events, finished first in Saturday's opening long jump with a jump of 6.78 meters. In the penultimate event, she was fifth in the javelin with a throw of 48.89 meters, nearly 2 meters under her personal best, spoiling her hopes of breaking 7,000 points.

Kluft entered the final event, the 800 meters, with 6,047 points, 492 ahead of Skujyte, and needed only to finish the two-lap race to complete the victory.

Kluft still ran hard and clocked 2 minutes, 14.15 seconds, covering her face with her hands and laying on her back on the track in relief and exhaustion.

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