On Day 4 at the 2013 Track and Field Championships in Moscow, the moment every Russian fan had been waiting for finally arrived. And their favorite darling, pole-vault queen, Yelena Isinbayeva gave them all they had hoped for—save for maybe a new world record.
Isinbayeva won yet another gold medal by doing what she does best and like no other woman in the world—soar into the rare air above the 16-foot barrier.
Once the competition was pared down to her two main rivals—American Jenn Suhr and Cuban, Yarisley Silva—Isinbayeva cleared 16 feet, 0.5 inches and dared them to match.
The height was too intimidating for the challengers on this day, as both missed on three attempts. The home crowd went crazy as their favorite daughter blew them kisses. It was a scene we've witnessed many times, and now, new speculation arises as to Isi's talk of retirement.
Suhr and Silva took silver and bronze, having topped out at 15'-9.75".
In the men's 800-meters, Ethiopian youngster Mohammed Aman pushed past American Nick Symmonds down the final straight for gold in 1:43.31 seconds. Still, it was the first medal of any color by an American in a global championships 800 final in decades, as Symmonds took silver in 1:43.55
Ayanleh Souleiman, from tiny Djibouti, grabbed the bronze in 1:43.76, and American Duane Solomon slipped to sixth in 1:44.42.
It was a predictable East African sweep in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase, and the order of finish went according to most form charts as well. Kenya went gold-silver, as Milcah Chemos finished in a world-leading 9:11.65 and Lidya Chepkurui timed 9:12.55.
Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa was right on Chepkurui's flank, taking bronze in 9:12.84.
The men's 400 final defied the charts—except for American LaShawn Merritt, who predictably won in another world-leading time of 43.74 seconds. Fellow American Tony McQuay surprised most pundits by finishing second in 44.40, ahead of bronze medalist Luguelin Santos, out of the Dominican Republic.
Grenada's Kirani James, a pre-race favorite alongside Merritt, finished seventh.
Like the women's steeplechase, the men's discus final followed the pre-meet script almost perfectly. Robert Harting of Germany found himself on familiar footing on the top pedestal of the podium. His winning throw was 226'-9".
Poland's Piotr Malachowski was the silver medalist at 224'-3", and Gerd Kanter of Estonia took bronze with a 213'-10" toss.
The grueling second day of the heptathlon may have been a painful experience for the ladies competing but it was certainly a crowd pleaser, coming down to the final heat of the final event to determine the order of finish.
First day leader Ganna Melnychenko of the Ukraine needed to stay within about 30 meters of Canada's Brianne Theisen Eaton in the final discipline, the 800-meters, to maintain her points lead and win the gold. Both athletes pushed to personal bests in the race, and Melnychenko finished right on the Canadian's heels in 2:09.85 to claim the world championship honors with 6,586 points.
Theisen Eaton was ever so close, finishing the overall competition with 6,530 points for silver. The Netherland's Dafne Schippers got the bronze with 6477. All three scores were personal-bests and Schippers' was a national record.
In the women's 20-kilometer race/walk final, I underestimated the Russian Olympic champion, Elena Lashminova, thinking the Chinese would carry their excellent 2013 season efforts into Luzhniki. However, the Russians went 1-2 and would have accomplished a sweep had Vera Sokolova not been disqualified at the end of the race.
As it was, Lashmanova took gold in a time of 1:27:8. Her comrade Anisya Kirdyapkina finished a step behind in 1:27:11. The Chinese, in the form of Hong Lui and Huan Huan Sun, did finish third and fourth respectively, more than a minute behind the winner.
Remember, we're using an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, similar to a high school track meet, to chart daily progress during the championships—just for fun.
Here are the current scores after Day 4:
MEN WOMEN TEAM
US - 76 US - 51 US - 127
Ger. - 40 Rus. - 48 Rus. - 70
Jam. - 24 Ken. 40 Ger. - 64
Pol. - 23 Eth. - 29 Ken. - 51
Rus. - 22 Ger. - 24 Eth. - 48
Eth. - 19 Chi. - 23 Jam. - 42
Fra. - 18 Jam. - 18 GrB. - 32
GrB. - 17 Jpn. - 15 Chi. - 30
Ken. - 11 GrB. - 15 Fra. - 26
Jpn. - 9 Ita. - 14 Pol. - 25
The expected surge by the Russian women came today, a 30-point jump in the team standings thanks mainly to Isinbayeva and that 1-2 finish in the 20-k walk. Poland, as well, jumped into the men's top 10 for the first time—all the way up to No. 4.
A quick scan of the standings shows me that Europe, as a competitive region, looks very strong. How about a USA vs. Europe track meet series?
Here's a good example of the importance of non-podium scoring seen as a team strength: The United Kingdom has only two podium finishes (albeit both are gold medals), yet half their points have come in fourth-through-eighth-place finishes.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, yet a simple medals count does not illustrate this example of team depth and gives zero credit for it. Something to think about...
Wednesday, Day 5, will be a bit of a rest day. There will be only one event final contested, the men's 50-kilometer race/walk.
Qualifying will continue in the women's hammer and 5,000 and also in the men's long jump and 1,500.
Be sure to bookmark our track and field homepage, as feature stories and World Championships-related opinion and analysis will continue to be published there. I'll be back with this column on Thursday, Day 6, with a complete recap of finals action from Day 5 and 6.
Until then, here is a list of event finals scheduled for Day 6:
Men's high jump (Loaded field, with two threatening the 8-foot barrier)
Women's triple jump (Could be a medals haul for Russia)
Men's 3,000m Steeplechase (Kenyan sweep?)
Women's 400m hurdles (Who can challenge Czech Zuzana Hejnova?)
Men's 400m hurdles (No Batman Jackson. No Dai Greene. Wide open.)
Women's 1,500 (The world is catching up to the E. Africans in this event. Also, 17-year-old Mary Cain is in the field)
Enjoy the action!
Event timetable (by day)
Viewing options (also broadcast on BBC)
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