Swedish athletics was very much in its prime in the mid-2000s and there was speculation that Sweden could even come away from the Gothenburg 2006 European Athletics Championships with five gold medals for posterity.
Their overall tally of three gold medals and six in total fell slightly short of these ambitious pre-championship expectations but six medals at their home event still represented their best ever medal haul in the history of the European Championships.
Around 32,500 fans packed into the Ullevi Stadium on the Friday night when two of the principal stars of Swedish athletics were in action. Reigning world and European champion Kajsa Bergqvist was competing in the high jump and expectations were equally high for Susanna Kallur to cap her breakthrough outdoor season in the 100m hurdles.
Bergqvist had to settle for bronze in an exceptionally high quality and exciting final which was won by Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut but Kallur added to the Swedish gold medal haul, living up to her billing with a polished display of hurdling in the 100m hurdles final.
The pre-race favourite with a season’s best of 12.52, Kallur embellished her status as she won both her heat (12.70) and semifinal (12.76) and she led from the very first hurdle in the final.
Even though she was pursued by Germany’s Kirsten Bolm on her immediate outside with Ireland’s world indoor champion Derval O’Rourke also in title contention in lane one, the Swede withstood the pressure to win the gold medal in 12.59 – at that point the second fastest time of her career. Her twin sister Jenny also reached the final in Gothenburg, finishing seventh in 12.94.
Kallur added to the host nation’s tally after Carolina Kluft successfully defended her heptathlon title on the second day of the competition. Hometown favourite Christian Olsson followed suit in the triple jump with Johan Wissman and Stefan Holm also winning silver in the 200m and bronze in the high jump respectively.
At 25, Kallur was approaching her prime in 2006 and she was expected to challenge for medals on the global stage but her next two seasons saw her euphoric triumphs contrasted by bitter misfortune and some rotten bad luck on the major stage.
Kallur successfully defended her European indoor title in Birmingham in 2007 before going on to break the world indoor 60m hurdles record in 2008 with a still-standing mark of 7.68 but her appearances in global championships in 2007 and 2008 ended inauspiciously.
Kallur missed out on a likely medal at the 2007 World Championships after being obstructed by Michelle Perry off the final barrier and having worked her way back into excellent shape after early season injury problems, Kallur fell in the semifinal stage at the 2008 Olympic Games after registering the fastest time in the heats. Kallur also had to abandon a likely title at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia in 2008 due to a minor injury problem.
The next eight years of Kallur’s career were dogged by a litany of lower leg injuries but the gregarious and popular Swede defied all expectations by making a solid comeback to the sport in 2016 at the age of 35.
Kallur didn’t reach the height she reached in the mid 2000s – nor was she expecting to after nearly a decade in the wilderness – but Kallur, who also gave birth to a daughter in 2013, worked her way back into competitive form on a modified training plan which brought her back into shape to allow her to end her career on her own terms.
After making the Swedish teams for the 2016 European Championships and 2016 Olympic Games, Kallur bowed out on a high note after reaching the final at the 2017 European Indoor Championships in Belgrade.