Keeping Joy in First place: Carolina Kluft

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Carolina Kluft of Sweden is one of the true superstars of the global sport of track and field. In Sweden, she is a rock star. Her sister, a police officer, can not even use the Kluft name as she would be swamped constantly in a country that appreciates its top athletes. In a press conference on Friday, January 25, 2008, your favorite blogger was able to speak with Carolina on the sport, her feelings about her event and where she will go in the sport:

Carolina Kluft is the best heptathlete in the world-that is a statement of fact. Her absolute control of her event has allowed much of the sports media in North America to underestimate the absolute hold she has on her event. Consider two days of competition with the best women athletes in the world.

Kluft has won the 2004 Athens Olympics heptathlon while she was injured. Carolina has won the 2003, 2005 and 2007 World Championship gold medals in the heptathlon. She has been ranked number one in the world for six straight years by the bible of the sport, Track & Field News-something never done before!

Carolina Kluft, the pride of Sweden, has also won two European Championships, in 2002 and 2006, and also won the 2003 World Indoor Champs at the Pentathlon.

At a bit over six feet, two inches, the blonde sports goddess is a technical dynamo-she can long jump, throw the shot, hurdle one hundred meters, throw the javelin, high jump, run the 200 meters and the 800 meters together, over two days better than anyone else in the world. While she makes it look easy-her dominance is hard won and hard trained. Her coach, Agne Bergvall, like many great Swedish coaches, commands the technical language of our sport quite well and has instilled that technical knowledge in Kluft-she is a student of the sport.

In speaking to Kluft, and this blogger has interviewed her nearly a half dozen times since her emergence in 2003 as the world power in the heptathlon, one is thrown off by her thoughtful, straightforward answers and her approach to the sport.

In a conversation with Carolina Kluft, you will hear " love of the sport, the chance for all of us to compete well and to see where we can go." Kluft not only has the command of her event physically, she is one of the most mentally prepared athletes in our sport.

Last year, in Osaka, Japan, the conditions during the heptathlon were quite difficult-the humidity was twice as bad as the worst August day in Chicago, and the heat was just draining! Walking up and down the stadium steps was draining, competing over two days on a track over one hundred degrees, with no shade, Carolina Kluft set her personal best of 7032, the number two score ever in the event, behind the great Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Klufts comments at the press conference after her win were telling, " I always try to keep joy in first place..I am just trying to be myself and have fun.." Those comments were made after it was noted that during the competition, she pounded her thighs, made pouting faces and shouted at herself before her fabulous shot put. Most telling was her final comment: " No one is unbeatable. On any day, an athlete can beat me." It was the most serious comment that Kluft made that day.

Carolina Kluft is the most underrated super star in global sports today because she has mastered her two days of brutal competition both physically and mentally. She is the supreme competitor, and because of that, we may see her not compete in Beijing in the heptathlon. " I will make my decision after the spring time. I am not feeling as excited about training as I have after other competitions. I would like to pursue one event for awhile."

Think about that! Carolina Kluft, master of the heptathlon might focus on the long jump, which she will do at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games. Kluft has gone 6.92 or 22-8 indoors. In her last appearance at the RBIG meet, she won the long jump in 2005.

Kluft is a complicated individual who lives life on her own terms, in her own country. She has a foundation that she focuses on much of her time, energy and wealth. Kluft has many sponsors, but her major, Reebok, has been with her since her European championships.

A person who has gained command of the demons that challenge us all, Carolina Kluft knows that success in sport is made of good training, good talent, good mental attitude and luck. She is looking for more challenges.

Last summer, a few weeks after winning in Osaka, Carolina went back to Sweden and competed in the hundred year plus rivalry between Finland and Sweden. The dual meet between the two countries drew over 25,000 fans, and Kluft rewarded them by doing the high jump, long jump and triple jump-and went over 14.2 meters! When asked, she said, " Well the coach thought I could do it, and it was not that bad, as I have done seven events in two days at the Sweden-Finland meet. It is quite fun and we do like to win!"

As I look forward to the meet this weekend, there are several events that stand out-Meseret Defar in the women's two mile, Craig Mottram of Australia in the men's 3k, Tirunesh Dibaba in the womens' 3k, Jenn Stuczynski in the women's pole vault, Galen Rupp and Chris Lukesic in the men's mile, but I am also looking forward to seeing Carolina Kluft, the most dominant athlete of her generation, " Keeping Joy in first place."

Taking sport at its most simple essence. Citius, altius, fortius. Kluft has figured it out, both life and sports. We wish her well.

For more on the meet, click: http://www.globalathletics.com

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