Day 6 at the World Track and Field championships in Moscow was highlighted by a great men's high jump competition.
The athletics world had been speculating on a possibility that until a year ago had been little more than a pipe dream—an assault on Javier Sotomayor's unbelievable 8'0.5" high jump world record.
On this day, we didn't quite get there, but a collective mindset throughout the sport seemed to agree: It won't be long. Athletics Weekly tweeted this promo which gives the argument in favor of that thinking:
Ukraine jumper Bohdan Bondarenko set a world championship record by clearing 7'10.75" to win the gold medal. And lest some think it was a fluke, remember the Ukrainian had soared in those lofty heights before—earlier this year in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He took three good attempts at 8'1" but missed on all three.
Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim took silver on fewer misses with Canada's Derek Drouin, the bronze medalist at 7'9.5". That height was a Canadian national record.
American Erik Kynard finished fifth.
Jenny Simpson (USA) went out to the front immediately in the women's 1,500-meter final, thinking her only chance was to drain the kick out of her rivals. The tactic has its risks, as the lead runner is blind to the field behind her and subject to the slightest deficiency in fitness.
It was a bold, unexpected move and almost paid off, but Sweden's Abeba Aregawi adapted and held off Simpson, winning in four minutes, 2.67 seconds. The American finished a half-heartbeat behind in 4:02.99. Kenyan Hellen Obiri took bronze in 4:03.86.
American teenager Mary Cain had her first taste of world championship finals competition and placed 10th in 4:07.19.
France's Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad broke up the expected Kenyan sweep in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, nudging in for a bronze medal. Kenyans Ezekiel Kemboi and Conseslus Kipruto did take gold and silver, in 8:06.01 and 8:06.37, respectively.
As it happened, Kenya scored heavily in this event, going 1-2,-4-7. American cult hero Evan Jager wormed his way into a fifth-place finish in 8:08.67.
The Russian women again scored big in the women's triple jump, going 2-7-8. But it was Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen who won gold with a world-leading 48'8.5". Favorite Ekaterina Koneva of Russia won silver at 48'6.5" and Ukraine's Otha Saladuha jumped 48'0.5" for bronze.
Nothing really changed at the top of the women's 400 hurdles ranking. Pre-race favorite Zuzana Hejnova, of the Czech Republic, demolished the field in a world-leading 52.83. Americans Dalila Muhammad (54.09) and Lashinda Demus (54.27) rounded out the podium finishes.
The men's 400 hurdles final produced another world-leading time as Trinidad and Tobago's Jehue Gordon barely nipped American Michael Tinsley for gold. Gordon and Tinsley clocked 47.69 and 47.70 in a near photo finish.
Serbia's Emir Bekric was the bronze medalist in 48.05.
In the only finals competition of Day 5, Ireland's Robert Heffernan surprised Russian favorite Mikhail Ryzhov in the men's 50-kilometer race/walk, winning in 3 hours, 37 minutes, 56 seconds. Ryzhov finished over a minute behind for silver in 3:38:58.
Jared Tallent, of Australia, took the bronze medal in 3:40:03
Just for fun (for me, it's getting a little more serious), we've been scoring the championships much like an NCAA championship meet, to keep track of movement among the men's and women's standings and to add an element of drama beyond the simple medals count.
Let's take a look at the standings after the event finals of Day 6.
MEN WOMEN TEAM
USA - 92 USA - 71 USA - 163
Ger. - 40 Rus. - 61 Rus. - 99
Rus. - 38 Ken. - 50 Ken. - 83
Ken. - 33 Eth. - 30 Ger. - 64
Pol. - 27 GBr. - 26 Eth. - 49
Fra. - 25 Ger. - 24 Jam. - 48
Jam. - 24 Jam. - 24 GBr. - 44
Eth. - 19 Ukr. - 24 Ukr. - 39
GBr. - 18 Chi. - 23 Fra. - 33
Ukr. - 15 Jpn. - 15 Chi. - 30
The Russians continue to creep closer to the top and there are still plenty of scoring opportunities ahead. The Jamaicans have been static for a couple of days now and must be chomping at the bit to score some more points. They'll get their chances soon.
The Kenyan Federation has to be pleased with their athletes in this competition. They totally under-performed in the Olympics and after having more than one "woodshed" meeting, the exhortation has apparently paid off.
Notice the Ukraine has made its entrance—into all three categories. Japan, China and Italy have faded a bit and I've noticed the Czech Republic is poised to break into the top 10.
We're getting to the point where it's not too early to speculate on a real points race between USA and Russia in the women's column, especially with the critical 4X400 relay on Saturday and the 800 and 4X100 on Sunday.
It's what the diehard track fan lives for.
Day 7 brings the conclusion of six more events. Probably the most anticipated is the women's 200 and the men's 5,000.
Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce threw down the gauntlet with her world-leading 10.71 victory in the women's 100, and a relatively well-rested Allyson Felix (USA) will be waiting for her in the 200. Can Fraser-Pryce go double-gold?
Another noteworthy double-gold could come in the men's 5,000, where Britain's Mo Farah hopes to add to his earlier gold medal in the men's 10,000.
Problem: Not only will Farah have to contend with his American friend and training partner, Galen Rupp, but he'll have three sub-13 East Africans working against him in the form of Ethiopians Yenew Alamirew and Hagos Gebrhiwet and Kenyan Isiah Koech.
Still, Farah is the premier distance runner in the world and will not go quietly into the night.
Another always-exciting event on tap is the men's 4x400-meter relay. The US is favored but it will be a loaded and talented field, with the USA, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain and Belgium all qualifying in under three minutes, one second. The final will be fast.
With world record-holder Betty Heidler failing to make the finals, the Russians could sweep the women's hammer finals, led by Tatyana Lysenko.
Where are the great American men long jumpers? Nowhere near Moscow.
Unless Dwight Phillips pulls off a huge upset, fellows such as the Russian, Aleksandr Menkov, Mexico's Luis Rivera or Spain's Eusebio Caceres will be standing on the podium.
An American (or two) should medal in the men's shot put final with Ryan Whiting and Reese Hoffa in the competition. But Canadian Dylan Armstrong, Germany's David Storl and the Polish glider, Tomasz Majewski, will offer stiff resistance.
Be sure to bookmark our track and field homepage and visit again on Friday for another complete recap, with results, team scores and analysis of Day 7.
Enjoy the championships!
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