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Slesarenko wrecks Cloete's high jump dream

By Tony Lawrence
Last updated on: August 29, 2004 01:51 IST
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Russian Yelena Slesarenko deprived Hestrie Cloete of Olympic gold by flying to the women's high jump title on Saturday with a display bordering on perfection.

The 22-year-old Slesarenko won with a clearance of 2.04 metres, then celebrated with yet another first-time clearance of 2.06, a personal best.

To please the Olympic stadium crowd she then had three failed attempts at increasing the world record to 2.10 -- 31 centimetres beyond her own height.

Cloete, the double world champion from South Africa, had been the favourite for the crown she covets most -- she said before the event it was worth more than a million dollars to her -- but ended with silver for the second Games in a row.

Lacking her usual spring, she could clear only 2.02, four centimetres below her best.

Viktoriya Styopina of Ukraine took bronze, also jumping 2.02 but losing on countback after two failures at both 1.96 and 1.99.

"She was clearly the best today," Cloete said of Slesarenko. "I was jumping before her so I should have been able to put more pressure on her but 2.04 was too much."

Cloete, who annoys her coach by smoking up to a packet of cigarettes a day, had lost out on gold on countback in Sydney, coincidentally to another Russian called Yelena -- Yelena Yelesina.

The time, however, the result was more clear-cut as Slesarenko, six centimetres shorter than her opponent, cleared eight jumps at the first attempt to add the Olympic title to her world indoor crown won in March.

Cloete, with her trademark double-arm lift-off, missed twice at 2.04, the second time going under the bar after misjudging her run-up, then gambled and lost with one attempt at 2.06.

She had celebrated her 26th birthday on Thursday during the qualifiers. There may be a hefty consolation to come, however, for Cloete remains in line for a $1 million jackpot for remaining unbeaten in Golden League meetings.

The world record of 2.09 is held by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria, dating back to August 30 1987.

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Tony Lawrence
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