Certainly not for the first time, and most likely not for the last time, the high jumpers provided the major excitement at the Swedish Indoor Championships when the 2008 edition was held during the weekend in the Atleticum arena in Malmö.
Green 1.98m, Holm 2.37m, Thörnblad 2.35m!
Since sensationally winning the bronze medal in Helsinki 2005 at age 20, Emma Green has struggled somewhat with the expectations. So despite being a consistent 1.90m-ish jumper she has not been able to improve her 1.97 from the summer three years ago. Not until now that is:
Less than two days after raising her yearly best to 1.94 when finishing second at GE Galan in Stockholm Emma Green had a clean sheet up to and including 1.95 followed by a second round clearance of 1.98! The happiness and relief caused by after two and half years finally having raised the PB again was obvious and also showed in the three attempts at 2.00.
But the significant facts are that only five other athletes have managed to jump higher than 1.98 during this winter with just two weeks to go to Valencia and that Green's jumping can only be described as her best ever.
The latter phrase could also be applied to a high jumper who already has three World Indoor titles and an Olympic Gold on his CV – Stefan Holm! Because spurred on by competing on Linus Thörnblad's hometurf Stefan Holm put together a set of jumps that made him state on his website www.scholm.com:
”Absolutely fantastic to finally this winter get a really great mark – and that as a consequence of unbelievably consistent jumping. It could very well be that I never have jumped better than today!”
The reason for that enthusiastic evaluation was truly emphatic first time clearances at 2.17m, 2.21, 2.25, 2.29, 2.31, 2.33 and 2.35. He didn't just clear the bar on these jumps - he was "miles" above. E.g the margin on the 2.33 jump appeared to be such that it would have been successful even if the bar had been set 6-7 centimeters higher.
Holm's first failure was a very, very narrow one at 2.37 – which he followed by another absolutely clean clearance in the second attempt. He concluded with one attempt at 2.39 and – after having secured the win – two attempts at 2.41. Neither of these jumps were really close to succeed, but they still were much better than "symbolic".
And yes, it is correct that it was not until 2.39 that a Stefan Holm jumping "better than ever" had managed to secure his 10th national title indoors. Of course it was Linus Thörnblad providing that very persistant challenge. Despite not having acquired the amazing "Holm consistency" Thörnblad on his best days still is capable of winning.
This was one of those best days: No misses up to and including 2.31 and after passing 2.33 the first failure came at 2.35. A failure instantaneously compensated by a magnificent second attempt clearance. So although Holm thus was leading after 2.35 he was by no means safe at the top:
At 2.37 Thörnblad actually was really close to wrestle the lead: After a Holm's very narrow first failure Thörnblad was at least as close at succeding! If he had it would have forced Holm to make 2.39 to win the competition. And that would really have been a challenge for "the old master" even if he felt he jumped better than ever.
So although the duo markwise didn't quite match the historic duel at last year's national indoor championships when both made 2.38 the quality and excitement was comparable. Holm has jumped higher than 2.37 only twice in his long and illustreous career and Thörnblad has surpassed 2.35 only once in his. Last winter the two of them scored a 1-2 finish at the following European Indoor Championships, this winter the World Indoors is coming up soon.
(Note: The Atleticum facility in Malmö is permanent with the synthetic track and runways laid on asphalt. I.e. conditions similar to outdoors with no "springboard" effect available.)
Injury and Illness sideline Klüft, Kallur and Wissman
That the high jumpers came to "rule" these Swedish Indoor Championships was due not just to the level of their performances but also to the fact that three of the other current start athletes were forced at last minute to pass this competition:
- The injury suffered by Carolina Klüft while warming up at the GE Galan on Thursday turned out to be a minor hamstring pull making it absolutely necesaary for her to cancel the rest of this indoor season.
- The effects of seven competitions at a higher level of intensity than ever before in the last month made Susanna Kallur feel somewhat sore, especially in the hamstrings. To not risk suffering the same setback as Klüft the World's No 1 female hurdler felt it necessary to use this weekend for rest and just some easy training instead.
- Johan Wissman, fresh from his significant win at GE Galan, did run the 400m-heats in Malmö but had to leave his lane in the final open due a slight fever.
However, Kallur and Wissman – just like Green, Holm and Thörnblad still have their focus firmly on the World Indoors.
Other Valencia-bound athletes that got inspiring final competitive test feedback:
- Shot Putter Helena Engman demonstrated consistency around 18 meters winning at 18.05, just a few centimeters off the national indoor record she set some weeks ago.
- Pole Vaulter Alhaji Jeng – who has a silver medal from Moskva 2006 to defend – once more made the Valencia-standard of 5.70 and then attempted the Swedish indoor record by putting the bar up at 5.81.
- Sprinter Lena Berntsson improved her 60m PB by 0.05 seconds to 7.32, a time that in recent World Indoors have proven sufficient to reach the semi-finals round.
- Hurdler Robert Kronberg has a collection of Swedish national championships titles that is almost as extraordinary as that of Stefan Holm in the high jump. This time it took a 7.73 to win by over a quarter of second, and hopefully the increased competition in Valencia will be able bring on the adrenalin needed to get down a further tenth. Because probably this will be necessary to once more challenge for at place in the final. (He was a WIC finallist in 2001, 2003 and 2004!)
Lennart Julin for the IAAF
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Complete Swedish team for Valencia
400m: Johan Wissman
800m: Mattias Claesson
60m hurdles: Robert Kronberg
High Jump: Stefan Holm and Linus Thörnblad
Pole Vault: Alhaji Jeng and Jesper Fritz
60m: Lena Berntsson
1500m: Kajsa Haglund
60m hurdles: Susanna Kallur
High Jump: Emma Green
Shot Put: Helena Engman