Thu, Aug 10, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Obikwelu, Kluft shine in Sweden

TRUE CHAMPIONS The Portuguese and Swedish favorites didn't disappoint, posting championship records as they swept away their rivals in Gothenburg


Francis Obikwelu of Portugal celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 100m during the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Tuesday.


Francis Obikwelu of Portugal and home favorite Carolina Kluft lived up to their top billing at the European championships here on Tuesday, destroying their rivals to win the men's 100m and heptathlon respectively.

Both posted championship records -- 9.99 seconds for Obikwelu and 6,740 points for Kluft -- as their class shone through two mediocre fields.

As in the heats Obikwelu's reaction time out of the blocks was terrible, but once the towering figure of the 27-year-old Nigerian-born sprinter became fully erect after 20 meters, there was no question who was going to win the race.

Obikwelu, silver medalist at the Athens Olympics and European record holder at 9.86 seconds, just steamed through the field.

"This title means a lot to me," said Obikwelu, who has had Portuguese nationality only since 2001 and now lives in Spain. "I was number one in Europe all year and now I also have the medal. After silver in Munich [four years ago] I wanted this gold in Gothenburg badly."

In an upset to the formbook, Andrey Yepishin of Russia claimed silver in 10.10 seconds and Matic Osovnikar of Slovenia bronze in 10.14 seconds.

Joint pre-race favorite Ronald Pognon of France, who along with Obikwelu and Dwain Chambers was the only other sprinter on show here to have raced a sub-10 second race, also made a disastrous start and could only finish fourth in 10.16 seconds.

There was no dream comeback for returning British drugs offender Chambers, whose European gold four years ago was handed to Obikwelu after the Briton failed a doping test and was handed a two-year ban. He could only finish seventh in 10.24 seconds.

In the heptathlon, defending champion Kluft -- remarkably still only 23 years old -- made the most of the withdrawal through injury of chief rival Eunice Barber of France to dominate her rivals.

The current world and Olympic champion completed the seven disciplines in the gruelling event a massive 317 points ahead of silver medalist Karin Ruckstuhl of the Netherlands, while German Lilli Schwarzkopf won bronze three points further adrift.

In front of a vocal crowd of 30,000 on Tuesday, Kluft recorded a best of 6.65m in the long jump, threw 46.94m in the javelin, and completed the 800m in a conservative 2 minutes 14.95.

"There was a fantastic feeling during the last lap," said an emotional Kluft. "Yes, there was the pressure, but again I was able to do what I wanted before the home crowd with the support of fantastic spectators."

In other events on the second day of the week-long continental competition, Italy's US-born Andrew Howe won the men's long jump with a best jump of 8.20m.

British teenager Greg Rutherford claimed silver with a dramatic last jump of 8.13m, nudging out Oleksiy Lukashevych of Ukraine by a centimeter.

Francisco Fernandez of Spain won the men's 20 kilometers walk, the Olympic and world silver medalist finishing the course around the streets of Gothenburg in 1hour 19 minutes 09 seconds.

Valeriy Borchin of Russia took silver, 51 seconds off the pace, with Joao Vieira of Portugal coming in third.

The men's 10,000m might not have been quick [28 minutes 10.46] but it had a fantastic finish that had the cheering Gothenburg crowd on their feet.

Germany's Jan Fitschen turned in a blistering 58 second last lap to catch Jose Manuel Martinez and Juan Carlos de la Ossa on the home bend and outsprint the Spanish duo to the line.

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