Skies the limit for German high jumper

After returning from injury, Ariane Friedrich is eyeing a place on the podium at London Olympics despite tricky rivals.

     Friedrich is concentrating on success at the London Games after recovering from injury [GALLO/GETTY] 

    German high jumper Ariane Friedrich is back following a 14-month injury break and ready to go after the one type of medal that is missing from her collection.

    The affable 28-year-old has dominated her discipline in her country for almost a decade, winning a world championship bronze in front of a home crowd in Berlin in 2009 and a European indoor gold the same year, but has never stepped on an Olympic podium.

    Her preparations to reach that goal in London this year suffered a severe blow when she ruptured her Achilles tendon in December 2010, forcing her to miss more than a year of training and competition.

    She returned to action in February this year, quickly clinching the German indoor title again with a jump of 1.91 metres.

    "I am not at 100 percent performance-wise," Friedrich, whose personal best stands at 2.06 metres set in June 2009, said in an interview on Tuesday at the start of her Olympic preparation.

    "There is still a lot of room for improvement. But I am very satisfied with my progress and I just hope I can stay healthy.

    "During my injury break, (the Olympics) were a bit on the backburner so it is kind of strange to say 'OK today I start
    training for the Olympics'."

    Friedrich, her trademark short blond hair now replaced by an electric pink colour, said while there was still a lot of work for her to do, anything could happen at the Games.

    'Nothing for free'

    "The Olympics will be a tough fight. You get nothing for free at the Games, believe me," said Friedrich, who was seventh in Beijing four years ago.

    "It is the toughest competition for the last four years and everyone wants a medal. It will be high level and everyone who makes the final is a potential medal candidate," said Friedrich, who works as a police officer.

    "That is also the magic of the Games, that everyone can shine at that moment. That is beautiful... and I would never
    say 'these three are medals winners and no one else'. That's not true. It has never been true in the Olympic finals."

    Friedrich will come up against her old rivals Croatia's Blanka Vlasic, silver medallist in Beijing, Russian Anna
    Chicherova and Belgium's Tia Hellebaut, the surprise 2008 Olympic gold medallist, who is back after giving birth to two daughters.

    "Forget about winning with a performance of under two metres. That is utopian. There has to be the number two in front"

    Ariane Friedrich

    The German said the winner in London would definitely need to jump over two metres.

    "Forget about winning with a performance of under two metres. That is utopian. There has to be the number two in front," said Friedrich, who will skip the world indoor championships in Istanbul in March to focus solely on the Games.

    "That is what will happen in London, unless there is hail or snow or something. But I don't think so. So expect to see a number two in front of the winner's performance," she said.

    Friedrich and her team have decided to pace the athlete and gradually build her up as the Games approach.

    "I think Istanbul was always a problem time-wise," she said.

    "We had said from early on that we would not compete in Istanbul. We said we would draw a line after the German

    "I save two weeks like that and these two weeks could turn out to be two very important weeks for me.

    "Ahead of London I will not be hiding," she said.

    "I need competitions experience and practice again so I will be taking part in several meetings (in the run-up to the Games).

    "I am not an athlete who can jump every two or three days. I need at least a week's break in between competitions."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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