The twists and turns and shifting sands of a decathlon competition make for compelling viewing and the entire complexion of the medal race undoubtedly changed, as it so often does, in the pivotal Pole Vault.
What had appeared a two-horse race between Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee for gold is now, possibly, a two-horse race between Hardee and Leonel Suarez? And in an added twist, it is the Cuban who many feel with the javelin to come is in pole position to strike gold.
So how did it come to pass? Firstly, Eaton. The 23-year-old has for all intents and purposes blown his chance of winning gold and the bronze may now be the limit of his ambitions.
The American cleared 4.60m – some 0.60 shy of his personal best - at the first time of asking and more was expected. He passed at 4.70m but could not find his rhythm at 4.80m, committed three fouls and that was that. A total points haul of 790 was not what he was looking for and he now sits some 67 points adrift of Hardee with a relatively weak javelin to follow.
Next to Hardee. The defending champion who rolled an ankle before the 110m Hurdles shrugged off the problem to perform well in the hurdles and discus. However, he will not quite be as satisfied with his Pole Vault performance. He cleared 4.60m and then 4.80m (849pts) at the second attempt time. The leader then passed at 4.90m but found 5.00m beyond him.
By contrast Suarez fired. Quick on the runway, although a little ragged technically, he cleared 4.50m, 4.70m and then 4.90m all with his second attempts. A first time clearance at 5.00m to equal his personal best bolted on a very handy 910pts to his overall score. The Cuban found 5.20m too high on this occasion but he has dragged himself into the frame to go one better than at the 2009 World Championships and land gold.
As it stands Hardee leads on 7088pts some 67pts clear of Eaton. Suarez is back in third on 6842pts but with his strongest event next up – the javelin.
The pick of the decathletes in this discipline was Eelco Sintnicolaas. The Dutch athlete cleared 5.20m (972) to move up to fifth in the overall standings with 6769 pts, although boasting a lifetime best of 5.52m his performance was a shade disappointing.
Aleksey Drozdov performed well to clear 5.00m and with two events remaining the Russian lies fourth overall on 6834pts.
The crowd also had plenty to cheer thanks to the efforts of Korean decathlete Kun-Woo Kim. The Asian Games silver medallist delighted the few thousand spectators who stayed behind the watch the men’s Pole Vault by equalling his personal best with 4.90m. He currently stands 20th overall.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
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