Kelly Sotherton's hopes of capitalising on Carolina Kluft's absence to win a second Olympic heptathlon medal disappeared yesterday as she failed to find her best form and had to settle for fifth place. To make her day, the winner of the silver medal behind Natalia Dobrynska was another Ukrainian, Lyudmila Blonska, who served a two-year ban for steroids in 2003.
Sotherton, who identified an indifferent long jump as the main reason why she failed to make the podium, reiterated her disapproval of Blonska's return to the Olympics. "Yeah, it does upset me," she said. "I'm not happy she can still compete in the Games. We have rules in our country that we have to abide by. We don't bring anyone who is cheating, so why should any other country?That needs to change.
"I'm pleased her team-mate beat her. I'd have been really upset if she'd got gold. We shouldn't be put in this position. I'd have been more disappointed and saying exactly what I said now if it had cost me a medal. The biggest penalty you should pay is not to compete at the Olympics."
Blonska responded : "It is very painful to be asked this. I don't think you have to ask it at this moment. Now everything is in the past. I'm not ashamed and those who think I should notbe here should look at themselves. It was a mistake in mylife and I have managed to prove that I can compete again and I am competing."
Sotherton's preparations for the Games had been hindered by a kidney infection, but having established herself in third place overnight she lookedcapable of profiting from Kluft's decision not to defend her title.
The key appeared to be a reasonable throw in the javelin, the penultimate event, and her weakest. Her effort of 37.66m was almost three metres short of her best, but it was also three metres more than she had thrown all year and judging by her skipping, clapping reaction she was happy with it. But by then the damage to her ambitions had already been done by an indifferent long jump of 6.33m in the first event of the day. Sotherton needed a distance akin to the personal best of 6.79m she managed at Crystal Palace last month. Even second place in the 800m in a personal-best time could not recover the deficit between herself and the bronze medallist, Hyleas Fountain of the US.
"It wasn't the jav that let me down, it was my long jump," Sotherton confirmed. "I'm very disappointed, because if I had a decent long jump I would have had a bronze medal at least. I had a good jav, a great 800m, three PBs this weekend, and still only came fifth. And I gave it my all.
"I can't quit heptathlon now. If I'd have won or [got] silver I would have quit and gone on to jumping. I'll do another year, as I want to go on and at least win the World Championships."
Chris Tomlinson's last-minute arrival in Beijing after recovering from a calf injury proved in vain as he failed to qualify for the long jump final, but fellow Brit Greg Rutherford is looking a good outside bet for a medal after finishing third best of the qualifiers with his first effort of 8.16m. "I will just go into Monday night's final thinking, 'I'm going to win this'," the 21-year-old European silver medallist said.