Roman Sebrle held his head in his hands. The decathlon world record-holder, a man with a pole vault best of 5.20 metres, had just suffered three failures at 4.90m and seen the initiative in the heptathlon at the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships handed, perhaps decisively, to his American rival, Bryan Clay.
Sebrle’s sub-par 4.80m performance in the pole vault yielded him just 849 points, some 120 less than he might have hoped for. Clay, meanwhile, managed to clear 4.90, to give himself a 32-point overall lead over the Czech going into the final event, the 1,000 metres.
With his six-event total of 5593pts, Clay’s advantage over Sebrle translates to approximately three seconds on the track, while his target time should he wish to set an American heptathlon record is 2min 39.09sec, to yield the 884 points he requires to displace Dan O’Brien’s world best, set in 1993.
On paper, Clay has a modest best for the 1,000, at 2min 52.97sec, while Sebrle has raced the distance in 2:37.86, and the Czech may have to run that sort of time, or better, to regain the world title he last won in 2001.
In the battle for bronze, Lev Lobodin (who already has four European and one World Indoor medals of that colour) cleared 4.80m in the vault, 20cm better than Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Karpov.
That gives the Russian 5393pts after six events to Karpov’s 5307, with Aleksandr Pogorelov moving ever closer in fifth place on 5302 after his 4.90m pole vault.