Athletics: Golden Hansen still hankering after perfection

European Indoor Championships: Simon Turnbull reports from Valencia on an athlete who still found fault in her performance after finally scaling the summit
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The Independent Online
ASHIA HANSEN was not an entirely happy woman yesterday morning. Despite the golden glow of the medal which lay on her bedside table, the televised replay of her winning triple jump in the European Indoor Championships the previous night did not meet with her approval.

"It looks a bit untidy," she said. "I could pick faults with it. I dived into the sand-pit. I did a pike."

Hansen's fourth-round effort had been good enough to win her the gold medal, her first international title, and to write her name into the record books. By a margin of 13cm, with a jump of 15.16m, she eclipsed the world indoor record held for three years by the Russian Iolanda Chen.

She also took the scalp of the woman who won the outdoor world title in Athens last August. On Saturday night, here in Spain's third city, Sarka Kasparkova was an overshadowed second with 14.76m.

After four years of striving, Hansen had finally scaled the global summit of the women's triple jump. Yet her lack of complete contentment was not impossible to fathom.

Having made it to the top, as a former citizen of the United States proudly waving the Union Flag in the process, the 26-year-old Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier is now looking over her shoulder for an Italian world beater who was made in Britain. Fiona May, born in Slough, raised in Derby and a graduate of Leeds University, is planning a change of athletic employment from long jumper to triple jumper.

An Italian resident and international for four years now, May yesterday added a European indoor gold to a glittering collection of international medals that also includes World Championship gold and Olympic silver. She has already, though, made her first mark as a triple jumper - an encouraging 14.56m in Florence in January - and has told Hansen of her imminent career shift.

"Fiona spoke to me about it the other day," Hansen said. "I think she's bored with the long jump."

The same cannot be said about Hansen and the triple jump, the event to which she turned after a lack of success as a middle distance runner and long jumper. "There is certainly a lot of room still for improvement," she said. "A 16m jump is possible."

When she reaches her limit and then retires Hansen intends to trace her roots. Born in Evansville, Indiana, she was taken to Ghana by her adoptive parents as a two-year-old. She has lived in Britain since the age of eight.

"I have never had any contact with my natural parents," Hansen said. "The system is complicated in the United States but I'll try to trace them when I finish my athletics."

In the meantime, the new golden girl of British athletics will continue her pursuit for three steps to heavenly perfection.