News13 Jun 2006

Christian Olsson is back!


Christian Olsson returns to competition in Karlskrona on 12 June (© Hasse Sjögren)

When Christian Olsson concluded his brilliant 2004 by winning the Triple Jump at the IAAF World Athletics Final in Monaco no one could foresee that it would take no less than twenty-one months until the next time he would step onto a runway to compete. What at first looked like a very minor ankle injury sustained in his first round attempt in the Olympic final in Athens turned out to be so persistent – requiring no less than four operations – that even Olsson himself had moments when he doubted that he would ever be able to compete at the elite level again.

But finally the ordeal is over: At 7.45 pm on Monday evening (12 June) Christian Olsson stepped onto the runway at the Västra Mark arena, Karlskrona, southeastern Sweden and after taking his hop, step and jump he landed past the 17 metres marker to the audible delight of the several thousand fans in the stands! And of course he shared in that delight although there was also a very large component of relief:

“This was one of my toughest competitions ever,” confirmed Olsson. I was very nervous and my legs felt almost like jelly. It was so nice to get 17+ at the very first attempt. That really raised my spirits and I felt better and better as the competition went along.”

“I am very happy with 17.09. My legs felt bouncy but technically I couldn't take full advantage. I had some problems with my run-up, but if everything had worked out I believe I could have got out to 17.30 or thereabouts.”

This technical rustiness was illustrated by his series this windless evening: The 17.09m (which won the competition by a full half metre ahead of Randy Lewis) was followed by two aborted attempts, a 16.82m, one pass and finally a 17.01m.

As for the old injury Christian was very upbeat: ”I didn't have any problem whatsoever with my ankle or foot either during the competition or now afterwards. Just to be 100% I will, however, wait until tomorrow before I will make the decision concerning the European Cup this upcoming weekend.”

Thörnblad for Holm

Talking about the Swedish European Cup (1st League) team for Prague, there will be something of a revolution concerning the men’s High Jump: for the first time in eleven years Sweden will not be represented by Stefan Holm, who has won his event for the last seven years. But now that winning streak is ended as Holm lost fair and square to World Indoors medallist Linus Thörnblad, last night in Karlskrona.

The latter made all heights up to and including 2.31m (which raised Patrik Sjöberg's arena record from 1986 by 1 cm!) at first attempts while Holm had two misses at 2.25, and one at 2.31 before taking his two last chances at the would-be World leading height of 2.33. But the Olympic champion did not see this as a definitive changing of the guard. Rather he has every intention to reclaim his position as Swedish No 1.

“There are still some good heights left in this body but I make too many technical errors at the moment. I know what I do wrong and also how to get it right, so I will work hard on my run-up in the next weeks.”

Hurdling treats – track record tied

But it was not just the jumpers that enjoyed the supportive crowd and the almost ideal weather conditions – warm and no noticeable wind. The hurdlers treated the fans with two exciting and very close races. In the men's race Robert Kronberg and Brasilian Mateus Inocencio couldn't be separated at 13.56 and in the women's race Susanna Kallur was so hard-pressed by American Danielle Carruthers that she with 12.68 tied the track record set by Ludmila Engquist immediately following her Atlanta Olympic triumph in 1996.

The evening also contributed a national record for the Democratic Republic of Congo: Gary Kikaya followed a string of sub-45 races in his specialty the 400m by winning the 200m in 20.40 after a very impressive stretch drive that only Sweden’s Johan Wissman was capable of matching reasonably well. Former World Indoors medallist Wissman with 20.50 missed his own national outdoor record by just seven hundredths.

The top middle distance race was the 800m where Kenyan Ismael Kombich followed the pacemaker over the first lap (51.9) to win in 1:45.91. However, Kombich still was almost hunted down in the end by the 2005 European Junior champion Mattias Claesson who got his even-pace strategy almost perfect this time. Claesson ran his four 200m-sections in 27.0 – 26.5 – 26.3 – 26.7 to finish in 1:46.46.

The top throwing event was the men's Javelin Throw where Karlskrona native Magnus Arvidsson confirmed his 81.75m four days ago in Italy by hitting 80.84m on his true home turf.  But Igor Jonik of Poland almost spoiled it for the hometown hero with a last round effort of 80.69m.

Klüft – relay and Javelin outing

Carolina Klüft, who has been living in Karlskrona for a couple of years, for once went almost unnoticed by the spectators as she ran just a relay leg and had the Javelin Throw as her only individual event. But the relay leg was as impressive as ever and the Swedish national team – which for the first time included Helsinki High Jump bronze medallist Emma Green on the anchor – missed the national record by just 0.25.

In the Javelin Throw, Klüft with 49.90m confirmed the improvement indicated by her win in Götzis a couple of weeks ago. But she did lose the event this evening to 16-year-old Ellinor Widh who improved her own Swedish Junior record by almost a metre to 52.97. Applying the Beijing World Juniors' perspective one also noted Erika Wiklund's winning 1.84 in the High Jump and Frida Flodström's 2:05.99 for second in the 800m.

But when all is said and done: Telenorgalan i Karlskrona on 12 June 2006 will still be remembered as where and when Christian Olsson returned after almost two years away from the Triple Jump "wars" due to injuries. And the World of Triple Jumping should take note that it was indeed the 17+ jumper Olsson that returned.

Lennart Julin for the IAAF

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