An empty lane nine in heat four revealed what we feared. The withdrawal of 2005 World Champion Bryan Clay, who was sitting third in the competition, because of a lower leg injury sustained in the high jump.
In his absence, leader Maurice Smith built up a healthy 86-point cushion after a scintillating run in heat four. Running in the outside lane, the American-based Jamaican ran a controlled first 300m and led by a metre from Belgian Francois Gourmet entering the home straight.’
But although he was eventually pipped by Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan for the heat win by 0.04, he battled on gamely to take a massive 0.31 chunk from his personal best to record 47.48 and bag 934 points.
Karpov ended a mixed first day on a high. The 2003 World bronze medallist picked up two more points than Smith in the 400m to take a huge leap up the overall rankings from fifth to second, although the Kazakh is traditionally weaker on the second day.
Roman Sebrle lost ground on Smith and also dropped a place in the overall standings to third overnight. But the Czech will not be too disappointed at accumulating 871 points thanks to a season’s best of 48.80, as he is still within range of the leaders ahead of the 110m hurdles.
The 32-year-old stretched every sinew down the home straight to finish third in heat two and showed plenty of his desire to become the first man since Daley Thompson of Great Britain to simultaneously hold the Olympic, European and World decathlon titles. For the record, German Arthur Abele took the heat victory in 48.58 just 0.01 ahead of Japan’s long-time leader Hiromasa Tanaka.
However, in the same heat 2003 World Champion Tom Pappas lost ground in his medal push. He may have moved up from sixth to fifth overall after a 49.22 time for 851 points, but he now trails Smith by a sizeable 187 points.
In heat one, Hamdi Dhouibi of Tunisia stormed to an impressive heat victory in 47.59 for 929 points and Russia’s Aleksey Drozdov clocked a lifetime best of 50.00 for 815 points from the outside lane to maintain fourth overall. He is has an overnight total of 4434.
Russia’s Aleksey Sysoyev set a personal best of 48.42 for 889 points to win heat three.
Overall standings after five events
1, Smith 4525
2, Karpov 4439
3, Sebrle 4434
Osaka 2007 News Team/sl