It seems surprising that until last night Czech Decathlon giant Roman Sebrle had not stepped onto the top-rung of an outdoor World Championships medal podium but after finally two previous silver medals finishes he won the World title, the one elusive title missing from his trophy case.
Sebrle, the 2004 Olympic champion, two-time European outdoor gold medallist and broke the 9000 points barrier for the Decathlon with a World record of 9026 points in the Combined Events Mecca of Götzis in 2001. However, he had never reached the top at the outdoor World Championships despite two indoor titles at the Heptathlon.
His hopes of claiming the World gold medal seemed to be distant after starting Osaka 2007 poorly according to his own standards by running the 100 metres in 11.04 and registering ‘only’ 7.56 in the Long Jump. Sebrle finished day one in third place behind Maurice Smith and Dimitry Karpov.
“It was a crazy competition of ups and downs. I could not be sure to win before the 1500 metres. This competition proved that Decathlon is only finished after the tenth event. You have to fight until the end. There I tried to race and go with Maurice Smith. The 100 metres sprint was horrible. I was upset. I was not satisfied with the Long Jump too. I said: ‘Roman, come on, you can become a World champion’.”
The gold seemed to be in the hands of Jamaican revelation Maurice Smith who went into the lead with an impressive 17.32 in the Shot Put. Smith led until the Pole Vault where he cleared a PB of 4.80m. In that event Sebrle faced the risk of a early elimination when he failed two attempts at the opening height of 4.40 but kept his hopes alive by vaulting at his third attempt and then went on to finish this event with a season’s best of 4.80.
“I was worried after the Pole Vault but after the Javelin I began to believe that I could win. It was the toughest of my titles. It is for my wife and my two children”, said Sebrle.
The scenario changed completely when Sebrle speared 71.18 metres while his Jamaican rival managed only 53.61m. With just one event to be contested, the 1500 metres Sebrle defended a small margin of just 44 points. In the gruelling 1500 metres Smith launched the attack to Sebrle’s leading position. Smith ran 4:33.52 to Sebrle’s 4:35.32 but it was not enough for the Jamaican to bar Sebrle from his first title. The small final margin of 32 points (8676 to 8644 points) confirms the exciting battle remained undecided until the end. It was Sebrle’s day but it should not be forgotten Smith smashed his PB to a new national record of 8644 points.
“It was an emotional competition,” said Sebrle. “I tried six times to become a World champion in Decathlon. Three times I was not healthy. In 2001 I expected a good fight but I picked an injury. This year I had the best preparation but I did not feel in my best shape. I happy I made it this year.”
Roman Sebrle, the best all-round athlete in the world, is planning to continue for a long time. “I don’t feel bad. Preparation is going well. I had the same level of preparation as at three years ago at the Olympic Games. I hope to be in better shape next year in Beijing to defend my Olympic title. I want to continue until the Olympic Games in London 2012. The problem is not age but health.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF