Ashton Eaton is still in a clear lead in the Decathlon in Moscow after eight events, but the Pole Vault competition was real show with several other athletes starring as well.
It was the best Pole Vault Decathlon ever at a major championships, equalling the record of 11 decathletes over 5.00m, which was previously achieved at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and Edmonton World Championships in 2001.
There were also a record eight decathletes over 5.10m, and a rare 5.20m starting height for Eelco Sintnicolaas, the highest ever at a major championships Decathlon.
But there was plenty more than those numbers to this competition. While others were fighting for the medals, there was one athlete outside that group stealing most of the attention inside the stadium as 22-year-old Ilya Shkurenyov, with his now famous grin, made the crowd go wild.
With the Decathlon Pole Vault the only event going on at the stadium, there was still plenty of spectators following the competition and the young Russian made them roar several times. Having cleared 5.00m for the first time at the World Junior Championships in Moncton 2010, Shkurenyov had jumped 5.30m at the Russian combined event championships before Moscow.
Drawing the audience to clap their hands with each of his attempts, like he should, the 2012 European bronze medallist had a great competition, first equalling his personal best at 5.30m and then going on to clear 5.40m with his third.
He is now in sixth place with 6940, but is weaker than the others in the last two events. Nevertheless, he is one of 13 athletes still in the competition with a possibility to score 8300.
Eaton mastered this event as well clearing a 5.20m season’s best, a height he has bettered only twice (5.30m PB in 2012 and 5.26 indoors in 2010). The US champion has scored 7252 after eight events and still has 8800 points within his reach. Provided he gets a solid result in the Javelin, Eaton looks set to win the gold medal, which would be the third straight at World Championships for United States.
The decathletes really seemed to motivate each other with good performances in perfect conditions at the Luzhniki Stadium today. Michael Schrader was one of those who were able to give that little extra. The 26-year-old cleared 5.00m, setting a personal best in the event for the first time since August 2010. It puts the German in the driver’s seat in the silver medal position and he has a good chance to maintain that place in the last two events.
Compatriot Rico Freimuth overcame a couple of disappointing events to equal his 4.90m personal best from the London Olympics. The 25-year-old, who placed sixth in London, is now in third place with 7007, but to keep that position he needs to throw farther than 60 metres, a feat he last achieved in July 2011.
Fifth in London last year, Damian Warner added a massive 20cm to his season’s best in the Pole Vault, equalling his PB with 4.80m. Currently in fourth with 6959, the Canadian is in contention of a medal.
South American record-holder Carlos Chinin set a personal best of 5.10m, having fallen adrift of his 8393 record series earlier this year. But now in fifth with 6944, he is only three points off the record pace.
Dutchman Eelco Sintnicolaas had some worrying moments in the Pole Vault, where he started at the unusually high height of 5.20m and badly missed his first attempt. This is the highest starting height in a World Championships Decathlon; Erki Nool started at 5.10m in Edmonton 2001, winning with a 5.40m result there.
The 26-year-old Sintnicolaas however only managed to clear 5.30m today to bring his tally to 6922 in seventh place. He had a very near miss at 5.40m, which he would have needed to really enter the medal race before the Javelin.
The surprise of the competition, Gunnar Nixon of the USA, had big problems at the start of the Pole Vault. His first two tries at 4.30m were nowhere near, but he sailed well clear with his last attempt, finishing the event with a good result of 4.60m.
The 20-year-old is in eighth place with 6898, but is a decent javelin thrower and a good 1500m runner, so could rise a few places in the last two events.
Germany’s European champion Pascal Behrenbruch cleared 4.70m, which was not enough for him to get back into medal contention. Even though he is a very good javelin thrower, he is now too far away in 12th place with 6773.
Another great Javelin man, Cuban Leonel Suarez, will also rise in the rankings, but is now too far back. Unlike in London, he will not get a medal here, but can possibly get himself from 17th place into the top eight during the last two events.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF