Maurice Smith took a giant stride towards securing Jamaica’s first global multi-events title after clearing three lifetime bests and advancing his PB by 25cm to 4.80m (849pts) with an extraordinary performance.
Dmitry Karpov marginally cut the Jamaican’s overall lead - to 111 points - after equalling his own personal best height of 5.00m (910pts). But with only two events remaining Smith, the Pan-American champion, looks set to take world gold.
This was supposed to be the event which tested the mettle of Smith, the long-time leader, but instead it was the most experienced athlete in the field, Olympic champion Roman Sebrle, who felt the heat.
The Czech, who was in the bronze medal position coming into the eighth event, boasted a lifetime best 65cm better than Smith before the event and he was expected to cut into the Jamaican’s seven-event lead of 221 points.
However, it was Sebrle who blinked first, and after two unsuccessful attempts at his opening height of 4.40m, he faced the humiliation of failing to register a mark.
With his medal aspirations on the line, the wily Czech changed his pole for the final effort and the world record-holder comfortably sailed over, clutching his head in relief.
Sebrle cleared 4.60m at the second time of asking, and a first-time clearance to equal his season’s best at 4.80m raised expectations. But he never came close to clearing 5.00m and his hopes of finally winning an elusive World title are all but gone
Smith is no master technician but he cleared his opening three heights of 4.20m, 4.30m and 4.40m. Lady Luck smiled on the big Jamaican at 4.50m. He scuffed the bar on the way down with his first attempt, but although it shuddered violently, it was not dislodged and he equalled his season’s best.
Using a pole emblazoned with the colours of the Jamaican flag the US-based athlete let out a yell of delight when he cleared a lifetime best of 4.60m at the first attempt, knowing he had dealt a major psychological blow to his rivals. With rising confidence Smith managed to wriggle over at 4.70m and a second-time clearance at 4.80m simply rubbed salt into the wound for Karpov and Sebrle.
Aleksey Drozdov (RUS) retained fourth with an eight-event total of 6984 points after equalling his lifetime best of 5.00m. His compatriot, Aleksey Sysoyev, also matched his best ever height of 4.90m and remains fifth overall – a further 36 points back.
The best height of the competition on a hot and sticky afternoon at the Nagai Stadium was cleared by Germany's Andre Niklaus, who equalled his personal best of 5.30m for 1004 points. The World Indoor heptathlon champion climbed from eighth to sixth in the overall standings on 6856 points.
Overall standings after eight events
1, Smith 7280
2, Karpov 7169
3, Sebrle 7059
Osaka 2007 News Team.sl