Looking for a golden leap

Carolina Kluft, one of the finest all-round athletes of all-time, says London might not be her swan song

up and away  Carolina Kluft, who has given up heptathlon, says she has to fine-tune her technique in long jump in order to make an impact at the highest level.

The 28-year-old, who quit heptathlon to concentrate on the long and triple jumps three years ago, told Reuters the plans she voiced earlier this year about retiring to pursue other interests after the next Olympics were not hard and fast.

"Obviously it's in the back of my mind, I've gone out and said it, and I know in my heart that this will most likely be my final year," she said. "But then nothing is written in stone, and I know I can change my mind as much as I want. I don't have to follow through on what I've said." After dominating the heptathlon from 2002 to 2007, winning Olympic gold in 2004 and three world titles, she changed to long jump where her success has been more modest.

As she prepares for one last shot at the Olympics, she feels she has plenty to work on.  "I needed to focus a lot on the technique, that's what was missing," she said. "Physically I feel good after fighting my way back from injury but it's the technical aspects, the timing and the feel, that aren't 100 percent yet."

She recently added new coach Oscar Gidewall to her backroom team, and asked if she had rediscovered her old self, Kluft said it was more a case of discovering "a new me".
"I feel that it's now I should be enjoying this," she added. "I might never be back and this is my last autumn training, so I'm devouring every last moment of it."

Whenever she eventually calls time on her athletics career, Kluft could embark on a political career and says she would like to deal with international issues.

Any future work is likely to involve young people and children since several times during the interview she mentions the need for a dialogue with them on everything from doping to sexual abuse.

"I always answer questions about doping when asked to show that I'm against it, to get the message out to kids and young people that it can be done without it," she said.
"I've won Olympic gold, world championships, completely clean -- just hard training, really taking care of my diet and my sleep and so on."

Kluft added she would like to continue studying and might end up in the field her mum always thought she would.

"My mother always said 'Carro, you're going to be a politician when you grow up', and I said 'no way!' I can't say that anymore," she said.

"I'm not really interested of party politics, it's very tough, very compartmentalised and I have difficulty placing myself in there.  "I prefer grassroots politics, working with children and young people, working more closely with people than in the chamber. Maybe I can work as a bridge between the two."

Whatever her plans for the future, Kluft's focus is firmly on the 2012 Olympics, and though she has not yet set a goal she is determined to be in shape mentally and physically when the Games commence.

"It's a mental thing," she said. "I've had a candy ban in place since New Year's Eve until the Olympics. It's nothing to do with weight or anything, it's just a fixed idea, an extra mental thing."

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