The burning question on everyone’s lips was could overnight leader Maurice Smith withstand the pressure and tension of leading the World Championships? Well, on the evidence of the first discipline of day two the answer is an emphatic, yes.
At a sun-drenched Nagai Stadium, Smith, the Commonwealth silver medallist, extended his overall lead to 101 points as he stylishly triumphed in heat three in 13.91 to secure 986 points – a little behind his lifetime best of 13.76.
His nearest pursuer Dmitriy Karpov, running in the lane adjacent to the Jamaican, lost a little ground on Smith, despite claiming 971 points for a season’s best of 14.03. Karpov, of Kazakhstan, retains second in the overall standings, but knows he has weaker events to come.
German Arthur Abele pushed Smith all the way, recording 13.92 to place second in the heat.
World record-holder Roman Sebrle, third overnight, is regarded as Smith chief’s rival in the race for gold and knew the significance of making a good start in the first of five disciplines on day two.
In heat two Sebrle held a clear advantage at the first hurdle and never faltered over the ten hurdles, establishing clear daylight on the rest of the field. But despite crossing the line first and registering a season’s best of 14.33 for 932 points, a little grimace at the end of the race revealed his frustration. He haemorrhaged a further 54 points on Smith and with four events remaining, and next up the discus, Sebrle trails the leader by 154 points with opportunities running out from which to close the gap.
Aleksey Drozdov of Russia slipped from fourth to fifth despite clocking a season’s best time of 14.76 for second in heat one. The European bronze medallist has an overall six-event total of 5232, but Cuba’s rising 18-year-old star Yordani Garcia leapfrogged Drozdov into fourth, and into the fringes of the medal battle.
The Pan American Games silver medallist, who is still a junior athlete, stopped the clock in 14.08 – within 0.07 of his personal best – for 964 points. The Cuban has a cumulative six-event score of 5258 points.
Tunisian Hamdi Dhouibi looked smooth over the ten hurdles, winning the first heat in 14.49 for 912 points.
Overall standings after six events
1, Smith 5511
2, Karpov 5410
3, Sebrle 5366
Osaka 2007 News Team/sl