Whisper it gently but there is a looming possibility of a clash between Tatyana Chernova and Carolina Kluft at the Olympic Games in London next summer. The towering Russian who took Jessica Ennis's global heptathlon crown at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August versus the peerless Swede who has never been beaten in a multi-events competition as a senior athlete would be a mouth-watering prospect.
It would not, however, occur in the, seven-event drama of the Olympic heptathlon, in which Ennis will be gunning for revenge and home gold. It would come instead on the singular field event stage of the long jump.
Kluft has spent the past four summers concentrating on the long jump, ever since she decided the heptathlon no longer held any challenges after 19 successive victories, three consecutive World Championship titles, one Olympic crown and two European Championships. In Daegu she finished fifth in the long jump final with 6.56m.
Chernova jumped farther in the heptathlon at the World Championships in the summer – 6.61m – and has her sights on that individual event as well as the heptathlon for London. "I would like to double in the long jump and heptathlon but it will be very difficult." she said. "We have very good long jumpers in Russia and to just make the team would be difficult."
Chernova's lifetime best in the long jump is 6.82m, which she achieved in finishing runner-up to Ennis in the Gotzis heptathlon in Austria in May. The same distance won the gold medal in the long jump final at the World Championships for Brittney Reese of the US. However, seven Russian women did manage to jump farther last summer, so qualifying in a secondary event would be no formality.
The timetable would allow the 23-year-old to pursue a double – with the heptathlon held over the first two days, then a two-day gap to the qualifying round of the long jump. The heptathlon, though, will remain priority for Chernova, who bettered Ennis in only two of the seven events in Daegu but ended up beating the pride of Sheffield by 129 points with a lifetime best haul of 6,880 points.
Having finally started to fulfil her promise when winning the world junior title in 2006, the Russian has her sights on the 7,000 points barrier as well as Olympic gold. Kluft's European record, set at the World Championships in 2007, stands at 7,032 points. As for Kluft, she has been talking about continuing to compete after the Olympics. "I know in my heart that this will most likely be my final year but then nothing is written in stone," the 28-year-old said this week.