Story written by EPelle
Christian Olsson has that look in his eye.
That may well be because he has clipped his hair, his 1,13 karat diamond is ever more sparkling, and he now dons a close shave similar to Johan Wissman, our national 200m record-holder (20,38).
Something is different about the former Golden League jackpot champion, and if he continues mesmerising folks with those piercing blue radars he calls eyes as he powers down runways at a stadium near you, John Christian Bert Olsson, the 2003 European Athlete-of-the-Year, will likely have a solo trip into territory in 2007 very few have ever legally touched with their own two feet.
Last time I saw Christian was at the media tent behind Ullevi Stadium following his medal ceremony at the European Championships here in Göteborg in August. He had a different look in his eye then.
Olsson had captured the European Championships here in his hometown - he grew up in a district named Angered down the road from me - and stood around taking questions from reporters - both in Swedish and in English.
He wore a blue cap backward and had the Swedish flag draped around his shoulders as he gleamed with enthusiasm and with spoke with the authority an accomplished man exudes after returning to a tent of shade following a long battle.
Relaxed and at ease back in his number one place in the sport - at least for a day, Olsson spoke freely and watched as journalists with thick Italian, French, Spanish and German accents scribbled and wrote notations of what the world would later read and appreciate.
He spoke with clarity into microphones as he was interviewed for radio spots, and he looked directly at the cameras pointed his way with red light indicators showing he was live and on-the-air, answering questions he's heard for the past two years.
Christian, are you fully recovered?
The reigning European Champion from 2002 had taken the long road, not the high road back to Göteborg following his 2004 Olympic victory in Athens, missing the entire 2005 season with an ankle injury which triggered after his first jump in the 2004 Olympic final. Olsson hoped, prayed and swore he'd be back on the runway again.
Three times he underwent surgeries to repair the damage, and three times the world indoor record holder appeared to be near the end of the line rather than at the mid-point. To Olsson, the elusive 18-metre barrier - and ultimately Jonathan Edwards' 18,29m world record - seemed to become more and more mere spectacular occurances in the history of the sport, but nothing to which Olsson could firmly attach his own name.
Olsson became the reigning Olympic, World, World Indoor, European & European Indoor Champion in 2004, a distinction no single, solitary person on the face of the earth has been able to do in holding all five titles simultaneously. He'd become used to breaking through barriers and establishing what no man thought possible of the 26-year-old Swede, who turns 27 in eight days.
So when Christian Olsson took one jump in the qualification round, jumping 17,51m with a slight wind (+0,3 m/s) - a full 28cm ahead of his nearest qualifier, Portugal's Nelson Èvora, who set a new national record with his 17,23m - Göteborg, Sweden, Europe and the world knew Olsson was back, and was hell bent on standing tallest on the medal stand.
"I would have like to do more jumps in front of this fantastic home crowd, I am sorry I had to deceive them (smiles): but at a qualification it is always better to do only one jump, " he stated directly after the event's qualification.
"I have the capacity to jump the World Record, but for Saturday I am rather set to jump a new National Record."
He had two clean jumps in the final, with his 17,67m into a slight wind (-0,7 m/s) eventually enough to win the competition by a whopping 46cm.
"When I was leading far in front of the others after my second attempt (17,67 metres), I really wanted to risk it and pushed really hard," he stated in his flash interview.
"So this is why all the next four jumps were foul: I touched the board because I tried too hard. After all my injuries it is unbelievable but at the same time perfect for me to win in front of this amazing and wonderful home crowd."
Yes, Christian Olsson was back, and Sweden had his back - through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, to never depart until he could bring on the real deal, namely a season when where he could compete injury-free, uninterrupted, and focussed on improvement rather than distracted by pain.
The seven-time national champion both indoors and out - who added an eighth to his credit, the long jump in 2006 - has appeared grandly recovered from his troublesome injuries, and competed in a short-runway competition at Friidrottens Hus Tuesday night here in Göteborg, jumping an astounding 16,07m with only a 20m allowance for his runup - less than half the customary distance which Olsson uses in his run-up to the line.
The mark was pleasing to Olsson, who competed with Per Krona (who has done a fantastic job developing in Olsson's injury absence) against boys - not men - in the annual event, his first-ever.
"It seemed like the youth thought it was fun that I jumped," he stated to Göteborgs-Postenlink), "but I assure you it was at least as fun for me, myself to do those three jumps."
Olsson has now undergone one of his best training periods ever, he says, and admits that he has broken some personal records in training, though he keeps hush about which ones those may be.
Though the measurements are secret, Olsson gave way to a huge smile, indicating he is again at the top of his game. Only small niggles remain, such which he states are to be expected by triple jumpers.
One triple jumper whom Olsson would like to emulate, not surprisingly, is Russian Tatiana Lebedeva, who, as Olsson states, is able to stay consistent in her competitions.
"Tatiana Lebedeva is admirable," he stated to Göteborgs-Posten.
"She can do a really long jump and follow it up with one just as good. I'd also like to jump like that. Perhaps I may be able to get there by focussing better on training. I am on the way."
Christian Olsson is visible again, both in an athletic and a personal sense. He has determination written over his face, which certainly shines brighter with the wave of blonde hair clipped away from his scalp. He has gotten his feet wet in a competition here in Göteborg - closer to "home" can he not get, though his house, money and post all belong in Monaco.
Glasgow is next up on the to-do list for Olsson, as he jumps indoors on a full runway for the first time in three years. He'll head back to Göteborg for the Eurojump four days later at Scandinavium, and his winter training and indoor competition will end with a go at the European Indoor Championships.
"It will be very fun to jump seriously," he says. "I have not done so indoors since I broke the world record three years ago."
Olsson owns the world indoor record of 17,83m, a mark which he set in Budapest on 2003-March-1.
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