Roman Sebrle began the second day of the heptathlon at the 10th World Indoor Championships with 45-point lead over his rivals in the Budapest SportArena here, and a marginal advantage in his theoretical race against the Dan O’Brien of 11 years ago, when the American established his 6476pt world record.
On the second day in Toronto in 1991, O’Brien had run a 7.85sec 60 metres hurdles, vaulted 5.20 metres and then ambled around the final event, the 1,000 metres, in 2min 57.96sec.
All seemed set for Sebrle, the decathlon world record-holder, to challenge one of the oldest standing indoor world bests.
And then along came Brian Clay. The 24-year-old who was brought up in Hawaii, had enjoyed a day of day’s here on Saturday, winning the 60 metres and setting a personal best in the high jump so that he had never been quite shaken off by the Czech champion.
Now, on the morning of the heptathlon’s second day, he turned what had promised to be a procession through to the crowning of Sebrle into a battle of the heavyweights.
Clay’s sprinting speed was again well used in the 60m hurdles, which he blitzed in an impressively fluent 7.77sec for 1040pts.
Sebrle, perhaps slightly out on a limb in lane one, was clearly working hard, racing against not only Clay but also O’Brien. But by the time the top American multi-eventer, 2004 model, had crossed the line, there was clear daylight. The fractions of seconds passed and seemed like an age.
Sebrle finished the hurdles fourth, behind Lev Lobodin and Dmitriy Karpov, the two contenders for the overall bronze medal (7.83sec to 7.87sec, extending the Russian’s five-event advantage over Karpov by 10pts, 4544 to 4517).
The clock stopped for the Czech at 7.95sec. That was probably 0.1sec slower than he would have hope, gave him a five-event total of 4712pts, and the overall lead to Clay. By a single point.
Whoever is going to win the title here in Budapest, they may need to break the world record to do so.