Basketball: Sjoberg takes a leap in the dark

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THE FORMER high jump world record holder and three-time Olympic medallist, Patrik Sjoberg, has retired from athletics - in order to teach American basketball players how to jump higher.

The 34-year-old Sjoberg, who won silver at the 1984 Olympic Games, bronze in 1988 and silver in 1992, reached the literal and metaphorical height of his career when he set a world record of 2.42 metres in 1987, at a time when few athletes made it above the 2.30 mark. But back problems have plagued his career in recent years.

"It is simply impossible to train hard, I would probably have to be operated on to continue functioning like a normal person," he said.

Sjoberg, one of Sweden's greatest ever athletes, will instead decamp to the United States where he will instruct NBA basketball players, and possibly footballers, how to jump higher.

"This is undoubtedly something I can do that will be a hell of a lot of fun," Sjoberg said. The Swede also said yesterday that he plans to set up a sports complex in southern Spain to use as a training facility for elite basketball players.

"In the first place I will work with players from the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets." he said. He has also been in contact with the football teams at Barcelona and Real Madrid.

As well as all his Olympic silverware, Sjoberg also won the World Cup indoor gold medal in 1985, bronze in 1989 and silver in 1992. He also won a World Cup gold in 1987. He has jumped 2.30 or higher in no fewer than 112 competitions.

"The world record is my greatest moment as an athlete and the worst moment was the injury ahead of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta," he said.