Susanna Kallur Nabs 18-Year-Old World Indoor 60m Hurdles Record

Story written by Eric

Sweden's Susanna Kallur had dashed around Europe flirting with record performances over the past two weeks, and had tasted history eight days ago when she came within three one-hundreds of a second from tying an aged record set in a very conspicuous time frame within the sport.

The faster she sprinted over hurdles from a standing start to a finish 60 metres down a synthetic track, the more unavoidable the question became.

Each obligatory post-race interview was a potential nirvana for journalists attempting to draw forth an answer to an obvious question Susanna didn't want to consider, and instead, Susanna would carry on calmly talking about mechanics of her race which needed adjusting...how her start needed improvement.

She appeared dazed, perhaps confused they thought. Perhaps she needed some time to collect herself, for surely she'd want to talk about how much she was demolishing her competitors and getting closer to knocking off a Russian-who-became-a-Swede from history's record books.

Susanna had time to collect herself during practice sessions following her short travels around England, Sweden and Germany where she'd gone through the same motions of packing down her equipment, flying to her destination, checking into her hotel, rising early to eat, relaxing before the storm she'd later create, packing everything back down and finally checking out of her hotel.

Meet after meet -- at Norwich Union, Samsung Galan and Sparkassan -- the pool of journalists waiting in the mixed zone for an interview with Kallur would grow exponentially.

"Sanna", as she is known here in Sweden, just couldn't get her hands around why she was in such high demand. It was only 60 metres of hurdling, she thought. She knew she was quite quick, but there was always an area to improve on. The "perfect" race, she thought, may possibly bring her closer to an 18-year-old world record, but it wasn't something she got caught up in.

The real deal, she'd state, was outdoors in the fresh air where grit, gumption, determination and power all wrapped up into controlled energy would be tested over a full flight of hurdles 100m from the starting line.

But this was indoors, she was running fast, and first things were first.

Though she'll tell you otherwise, Sanna Kallur is used to being in the spotlight. She was nearly awarded Sweden's sportsperson of the year award for the second consecutive year last month, losing out to footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. She knows pressure and has a great resolve when it comes to warding off unwanted thoughts and wasting both time and energy wondering about things which had not yet happened.

The world record would come if it was so destined, she'd reason.

Sanna wanted to live in the "now", not the future. The scribes writing for their daily newspapers and weekly magasines didn't get the message, however, and the questions would get more direct and less comfortable for Sanna before and after each subsequent competition.

Susanna was sitting on a gold mine, and they knew it. She pretended as well as she could that she didn't notice how incredibly close she was to making her little country of 9 million proud by becoming the second athlete in three years to set a world indoor record. Kajsa Bergqvist, who retired last month, set the world indoor high jump record of 2,08 metres in Arnstadt, Germany on February 4, 2006.

There is something magical about Germany, and Sanna got a good taste of that when she stopped the timing device 7,72 seconds after it fired in Stuttgart.

There was no denying her place in history following that race, as she elevated her status and position in the sport to the second-highest place on the all-time list -- 0,03 seconds behind Russian Lyudmila Narozhilenko's 7,69 clocking in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 1990, and one hundredth of a second ahead of Narozhilenko's Swedish record time of 7,73 set when she became a Swede and had changed her name to Lyudmila Engquist.

Susanna Kallur, daughter of an NHL hockey star with four Stanley Cups to his name, was setting herself up to make history, even if she felt the time wasn't yet right to touch a record all the greats in the 18 years preceding her had been unable to tie or surpass. The outdoor record-holder couldn't touch the mark.

The American record-holder, who was known for her foot speed, couldn't, either.

Engquist's mark was becoming a permanent fixture in the books, but not one which her adopted country wanted to see remain as word of her post-career drugs-testing failure turned the love-love relationship with her into one which pushed her far from the country with thoughts of committing suicide for letting it down.

Then Sanna headed back to Germany earlier this week to withdraw against her recent deposit into her training bank, and make an effort to run fast on a good surface. World record thoughts were still outside of her realm of thinking, she'd state, and she was simply there in Karlsruhe to have fun and run her best.

This time when journalists -- still armed with cameras and notepads -- were to pop up to ask about her training, she'd grant one of them an opportunity to film her practice indoors on Wednesday in a break from Sanna's normal routine. Perhaps she sensed the inevitable was in the air, and she simply wanted to show the world that she was as average and normal as the next athlete.

Nevertheless, Susanna Kallur, twin sister to Jenny Kallur, lined up to race late this afternoon at the BW Bank Meeting in Karlsruhe in a heat to determine which athletes would compose the final field at the end of the meet.

She remained set in her blocks when the gun sounded, and eased into the final with the fastest time of the day, 7,78 seconds after the gun sounded.

Chatter had filled the stadium earlier in the day as talk about a world-record attempt had permeated throughout the media out to the public, with the journalists doing most of the talking as Sanna had left it up to them to make prognostications about speed, charts and climbs up all-time lists.

She did later admit that the record had begun itching between the ears, so-to-speak, but she'd not dwell on it; she didn't want to chase times and marks, as doing so had previously caused her to get nervous and the goals to remain elusive.

By the time the eight women-strong final would take place, at 16.42 Central European Time, nearly every resident in Sweden had their televisions tuned to Eurosport or had their radios turned on to a newscast either waiting to watch history unfold literally in the blink of an eye, or to be interrupted from milking cows and shoveling snow if only for a minute to let out a loud "yes!"

American Lolo Jones broke the 19-year-old meet record with a 7,87 run in the first heat. Sanna, blocking out the distractions and focussed on her own plan, erupted for a 7,78 in the following heat.

An entire stadium erupted in cheer when the gun sounded. Sanna Kallur had a decent reaction to the gun and started off quickly toward the first hurdle. She flew over all of the barriers between the start and the finish tape, and, with her lean at the finish, flew through a barrier which had stood since Sanna was but seven years old.

The clock stopped at 7,68 seconds -- a time 1/100th of a second faster than the previous world-record, and the first time Sanna had broken the 7,80-second barrier.

Sanna stared at the clock a moment, not knowing if the time would be adjusted up or down, as often occurs when the official time is given.

When the official time was announced, Sanna Kallur, who turns 27 in five days, realised she had broken the world record, and was immediately congratulated by Damu Cherry, an athlete who had been previously banned for two years for steroids abuse. Sanna didn't appear enthused to embrace the controversial hurdler, but shook her hand, nonetheless.

Then she took her laps of honour in front of a class of people who had assembled for the possibility that they again would witness history on German soil.

Jones placed second in 7,77 seconds, the 10th-fastest ever recorded. So loaded was the field that six of the seven finishers set new personal bests in the race.

That Sanna would catch and pass a ghost of the sport's past in her fourth meet of the season was not remotely in her thoughts before the race began, and her reaction to her time and place in history says it all.

"This is absolutely unbelievable," reports the IAAF. "I can’t put my feelings into words. In comparison with my race last week in Stuttgart, today was much better."

Engquist would later send her congratulations to Sanna through a message she sent to Sportbladet, the sports division at tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. Sanna also spoke with Jenny Kallur and received an SMS congratulation from Christian Olsson, who has the world indoor triple jump record.

Said Engquist through tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet:

Sanna! An emornously big congratulations for a fantastic and well-deserved record. I wish now that you will be injury-free, for then you will win the Olympics.

Congratulations from my heart! Ludmila.

The 26-year-old had endured a winter's worth of grueling practices in her pursuit of bettering her starts, her technique and her overall strength.

Sanna's race was the third time this indoor season that she has set a new persona
l best at this race distance. She concedes that she is strong at this distance, but the 100m hurdles -- the official Olympic distance -- is where the American hurdlers seem to excel, a fact which doesn't necessarily put her in the driver's seat heading to Beijing in August.

"There are some Americans who have better 100 metres hurdles times than I do. You certainly must consider them ahead of me," she said.

The Olympic Games are still six months down the road, and Sanna Kallur has much remaining on her plate this indoor season, with a date in Birmingham planned for Saturday.

"I like Birmingham", Sanna told Aftonbladet reporters. "They have good coffee there."

Indeed they do. Perhaps that was Sanna's best effort at staving off further talks about records and medals.

The Swedish national championships are being held in two weeks in Malmö, and the IAAF World Indoor Championships will take place next month in Valencia. Sanna's world record run tonight, though a phenomenal time, was far from perfect, and she realises there are areas yet to improve.

Time will tell how much more she can improve this indoor season, though her trainer, Karin Torneklint, believes Sanna can run much, much faster both indoors and outdoors in 2008.

The journalists, who flocked to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm when Sanna landed on Monday, believe she can, too.

Sanna's hopes of escaping further question-and-answers sessions disappeared with her entry into the world record books, and it appears as though this has only been the calm before the great storm which occurs once every fourth year, namely the Olympic Games.

Kallur, who has had a winter of injury-free training with her twin sister, Jenny, holds a 12,49 second 100m hurdles best outdoors - a mark she also achieved with her successes in Germany last season in Berlin.

The Swedish national record is held by Engquist, who twice ran 12,47.

Kallur was injured for three months leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and did not make it past the semi-finals.

She also hopes to improve on her fourth-place finish from last season's IAAF World Outdoor Championships 100m hurdles final - a race she was winning until American Michelle Perry, the eventual winner, interfered with Kallur over the final hurdle and impeded Kallur's finishing drive.

Perry is skipping the 2008 indoor season in favour warm-weather training in Australia's summer season.

The Kallur twins are no strangers to handling success. Their father Anders Kallur, the four-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders, is their manager.

Jenny Kallur, who was born four minutes before Sanna, is skipping the 2008 indoor season.

International Indoor Meeting, Karlsruhe

Women's 60m Hurdle Results:

1 KALLUR, SUSANNA SWE WR 7,68 (reaction: 0,162)
2 JONES, Lolo USA PB 7.77 (0,155)
3 CHERRY, Damu USA PB 7,89 (0,166)
4 WELLS, Kellie USA =PB 8,00 (0,163)
5 BOBKOVA, Miriam SVK PB 8,04 (0,138)
6 TRYWIANSKA, Aurelia POL SB 8,08 (0,181)
7 VUKICEVIC, Christina NOR PB 8,10 (0,157)
- TEJEDA, Anay CUB DNF (0,164)

Five-fastest indoor 60m hurdle races all-time:

7,68, Susanna Kallur, SWE, Karlsruhe, 2008-02-10
7,69, L. Engquist, RUS, Chelyabinsk, 1990-02-04
7,73, Cornelila Oschkenat, EG, Wien, 1989-02-25
7,74, Jordonka Donkova, BUL, Sofia, 1987-02-14
7,74, Michelle Freeman, JAM, Madrid, 1998-02-03
7,74, Gail Devers, USA, Boston, 2003-03-01

Susanna Kallur's Yearly Bests

1998 8.33i
1999 8.44i
2000 8.10i

2002 8.00i
.......... 200112,74
2003 7.90i
2004 7.88i
2005 7.80i
2006 7.86i
2007 7.84i

2008 7.68i


All-time list source: Peter Larsson

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