The crowd's shock was palpable as World Record holder Stacy Dragila failed to advance to the women's pole vault final. Needless to say, Dragila herself was no less stunned, afterwards telling reporters, "It's been a bad day at work and I really don't want to talk about it."
The much-bemedaled American, who won the first-ever gold medals in this event at the '97 World Indoor, '99 World Outdoor and '00 Olympic Games, has been known to have trouble at lower heights from time to time.
Such was the case here, where she passed the first two heights, 4.10 and 4.25, electing to begin at 4.30. At a height that should have been most pedestrian for her, she never even got within shouting distance of the bar, on each attempt stalling out shortly after her plant and simply riding the pole into the landing pit.
As if her final attempt wasn't to be pressure-packed enough, as she was preparing to vault officials halted the competition to allow quiet for the start of a heat of the men's 60 hurdles. Unfortunately there was a false start and she was forced to delay yet again.
With Dragila out of the way, the rest of Pool B moved on to the auto-qualification height of 4.35, which had been earlier reached by two members of Pool A.
As it turned out, another six women went clear, making for a finals field made up solely of automatic advancers. Nobody did it more efficiently than Svetlana Feofanova, who just two weeks ago lost her World Record holder status to Dragila. The red-haired Russian needed just her single try at 4.35 - which she scaled magnificently - to stamp herself a clear favorite for Sunday afternoon's final.