Staffan Strand clears 2.30m at Swedish championships (Hasse Sjögren) © Copyright

Swedish championships report – Small Olympic team of 12 announced

The 2004 Swedish National Championships in Karlstad this past weekend (6 - 8 August) also served as the very last chance for athletes to get a place on the Olympic team.

For those looking for the crucial marks that would convince the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) luckily “real summer” finally descended upon Sweden providing almost perfect conditions with blue skies, slight winds and temperatures of 25 degrees or more.

Strand and Kallur convince selectors

And the athletes really responded, especially high jumper Staffan Strand and hurdler Susanna Kallur! After the MAI Galan in Malmö on Monday – when Staffan cleared 2.25 and Susanna ran 13.13 in unfavourable weather – they were told by the SOC that they would not be going to Athens. Only a “world class mark” in Karlstad would make the SOC reconsider.

Strand nearly defeats Holm!

Strand – nine times in the top-8 at international championships – had an operation on his take-off foot last autumn and had then found it problematical to re-establish his technique. Both at “DN Galan” and at “MAI Galan” he looked to be well on his way until heavy downpours spoiled everything when the bar reached “serious” heights. But this time there was no such intervention from the sky and Staffan took full advantage by raising his post-foot-operation PB by 5 cm to 2.30!
In the process Strand came very close to ending Karlstad hometown hero Stefan Holm’s undefeated 2004. But after Strand made 2.30 on his third attempt the World’s top-ranked high jumper dug deep and came up with a great clearance that saved his winning streak. But it should be noted that Staffan Strand actually was closest of the duo to being successful at 2.32 …

Kallur back from injury

Susanna Kallur suffered a major hamstring pull in late spring and the first reports indicated that it was an injury that would end her season before it even started. But the World Indoor Championships finallist from Budapest in March stated that she would attempt “a World record in rehabilitation” – and she probably succeeded as she at “DN Galan” on 27 July was back on track running a 13.15 in the B-race.

But the SOC said she needed to run faster to get selected and the 13.13 in Malmö was not considered sufficiently faster. Her very last opportunity would be the National Championships and by running her third fastest time ever – a slightly wind-aided 12.83w – defeating twin sister Jenny Kallur (already on the team) by two full tenths Susanna convinced the SOC selectors go give her the Athens OK.

Janson gets “A” standard but is left off the team!

The third athlete looking for a last minute selection – pole vaulter Oscar Janson – was not so lucky. Just a week after his surprising NR of 5.87 last year he suffered a stress fracture in his foot and when recovered from that he has been hindered by both Achilles and hamstring problems. But now Janson finally felt well and proved it by making both 5.60 and 5.65 (the IAAF A-standard!) on first attempts before failing at 5.70.

However, this was amazingly still not considered good enough by the Swedish Olympic Committee! Is there any other nation in the world that voluntarily would leave an obviously physically fit A-standard athlete off its Olympic team?

The final Swedish team for Athens will now consist of the following twelve athletes:

200m: Johan Wissman
3000m Steeplechase: Mustafa Mohamed
110m Hurdles: Robert Kronberg
High Jump: Stefan Holm, Staffan Strand and Linus Thörnblad
Pole Vault: Patrik Kristiansson
Triple Jump: Christian Olsson

100m Hurdles: Jenny Kallur and Susanna Kallur
Long Jump and Heptathlon: Carolina Klüft
Discus Throw: Anna Söderberg

Training camp in Cyprus

With the exception of Patrik Kristiansson and Christian Olsson, all the athletes who were selected before the championships, competed and performed well in what was their last meet before the team leaves for a training/acclimatisation camp on Cyprus.

Olsson chose to miss the national championships after having won a hard-fought battle in Zurich on Friday night. His childhood friend Patrik Kristiansson - they grow up in the same street in the Göteborg suburb of Angered - did indeed come to Karlstad to compete. However, his poles had other thoughts and got lost on the way from Zurich - so he was restricted to being a spectator.

Others at the Swedish champs…

Johan Wissman won not only the 200m in convincing fashion (20.63 vs 21.00 for the 2nd placed athlete) but also the 100m (10.45 – just 0.01 off his PB).

Mustafa Mohamed sprinted to the 5000m title in a typical championships (i.e. slow paced) race, and Robert Kronberg took is 8th straight hurdles title recording 13.47 (0.01 off his best this year).

Stefan Holm as already mentioned won the High Jump (his 7th national title outdoors) on countback over Strand. Finishing third at 2.26 was junior Linus Thörnblad. Jenny Kallur grabbed the hurdles silver behind her twin sister, and Anna Söderberg took her 12th (!) straight Discus title by throwing 59.07 despite an unfavourable tailwind.

Klüft remains busy and satisfied

Carolina Klüft as always seemed to be everywhere doing everything! On Day 1 she took the 100m title in 11.55 after running a 11.48 PB in the heats. On Day 2 she proved that the remodeling of her Shot Put technique had paid off by raising her PB to 14.66. However, she must have been disappointed later in the day when missing the Javelin Throw final after reaching merely 41 metres in the qualification. On Day 3 she got a second title when taking the High Jump in 1.90, her best this year.

Carolina was satisfied with her weekend as the two gold medals, the two new personal bests and the additional yearly best provided her with a positive feedback formwise going into her final Olympic preparations.

National Junior 800m record

Although Athens 2004 was on almost everybody’s mind this weekend in Karlstad there were of course also many young athletes that instead were looking towards Beijing 2008 or even further ahead for fulfilment of their Olympic aspirations. One of those was 800m-runner Mattias Claesson who turned 18 just a few days ago, but who still provided the moment of these championships that would remain etched on the retinas of the spectators.

Using the “Borzakovskiy concept” of not rushing it on the first lap he passed 400m dead last in 54.6. But then Claesson turned it on in a most startling fashion and, despite being over 20 m down on 1:45-national record holder Rizak Dirshe with 300m to go, he was on the leader’s shoulder coming off the last bend! Dirshe did managed to respond and just saved the title, but Mattias Claesson’s 52.5 last lap brought him the silver in the new national junior record 1:47.07!

Small team but packed with medal talent

Returning to the subject “Athens 2004” the Swedish Olympic athletics team might be one of the smallest ever but at the same time it contains more realistic medal contenders than we have seen since 1948! Despite the sad loss of Sydney bronze medalllist Kajsa Bergqvist to injur,y the team includes four who reached the podium at the 2003 World Championships of which three - Stefan Holm, Christian Olsson and Carolina Klüft – are currently ranked no 1 in the world in their respective events!

For FULL RESULTS of the Swedish Championships click here