10 JUL 2008 General News

Decathlon

Phew! That was close. Very rarely do major championship decathlons serve up such a spectacular finale in the 1500m - but German Jan Felix Knobel and Eduard Mihan of Belarus take a bow. You produced a classic.

In the final reckoning just 2pts - approximately 0.20 of a second in the 1500m - separated the pair as they produced a pulsating three-and-three-quarter lap duel which will linger long on the memory.

Going into the tenth and final event Knobel held a 107 point advantage – roughly 17 seconds in the 1500m – from Mihan who had led the competition from event two until the ninth event.

Starting aggressively in what seemed an unlikely gold medal quest, Mihan led through 400m and hit the 800m mark in 2:22.24 with Knobel around five seconds adrift and comfortably within range.

However, as Mihan continued to maintain his fierce pace the wispy-haired the German started to struggle and the gap between the pair was lengthening with almost every stride.

Rounding the final bend Mihan, predictably, started to tire and was overtaken by the fast finishing Mark Tymchenko of the Ukraine. Nonetheless, Mihan lunged for the line, taking almost four seconds from his personal best in 4:30.93 for 739 points and a total haul of 7894, a new national junior record.

Then the long, very long wait.

With Knobel almost the entire 100m straight behind the Belarussian spectators anxiously counted down the seconds. Straining every sinew the German athlete finally crossed the line in what appeared to be 4:47ish.

He had held roughly a 17-second advantage.

What would be the outcome?

Finally, after what seemed an eternity it flashed up on the screen. The German had recorded a time of 4:47.44 for 634 points, a grand total of 7896. Knobel had clinched gold. Just.

The irony is for much of the competition it appeared Mihan had the gold medal in his pocket. At the end of the first day he accumulated 4155 points and held a solid 71-point overnight lead from Serbia’s Mihail Dudas.

Knobel, who finished fifth in the Octathlon at the 2005 World Youth Championships, was third on 4021, but knew his stronger day was to come.

Mihan refused to crack and blasted to personal bests in the first two events of the second day; 110m hurdles (14.54) and discus (44.53m).

However, the first signs Knobel could figure as a serious threat came in the pole vault when he cleared 4.60m to claw back 59 points on the long-time leader.

The pendulum then firmly swung in the German’s favour in what proved the pivotal ninth event – the javelin. Knobel, launched the spear out to 66.27m with his first effort and although Mihan set a new PB of 51.28m it contributed to a decisive 225pts points spin.

Then came that 1500m and we all know what happened next.

Steve Landells for the IAAF