The Olympic decathlon opened as expected Wednesday with American world record-holder Ashton Eaton bursting out to a big lead courtesy of two of his favorite events, the 100 meters and the long jump. Eaton then threw respectably in the shot put to finish the early session with 2,848 points, enjoying a 105-point lead over fellow American Trey Hardee, the two-time World champion.
Eaton ran 10.35 in the 100, setting an Olympic decathlon record, while Hardee was next at a season-best 10.42. Eaton opened the high jump by leaping 7.87 meters (25 feet, 9¾ inches), a distance that would have led all competitors had he not improved to 8.03/26-4 on his third attempt. Belgium's Hans van Alphen leaped a personal best 7.64/25-¾ to help him remain in the medal hunt - although, even after just three events, it appears that the medal hunt is for silver and bronze. Eaton concluded the session by throwing 14.66/48-1 in the shot put, which is not one of his favorite events, while Kazakhstan's Dmitriy Karpov led the way with a season-best 16.47/54-0. Ukraine's Oleksiy Kasyanov sits third in the standings with 2,664 points - trailing Hardee by 79 - followed by van Alphen (2,639), Canada's Damian Warner (2,637) and Karpov (2,625). The high jump and 400-meter events are scheduled for this evening.
Event favorite Pamela Jelimo qualified comfortably in the opening round of the 800 meters, winning her heat in 2:00.54. American Alysia Johnson Montano won the fastest heat, finishing in 2:00.47 to edge Caster Semenya of South Africa and move on to Thursday's semifinals. Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia, who has a foot injury, and Kenya's Kenia Sinclair did not start.
Fourteen pole vaulters qualified for Friday's final, with final clearances of 5.50/18-½ to 5.65/18-6½. France's Renaud Lavillenie and Germany's Raphael Holzdeppe were the only two to clear 5.65, but they needed to do so because of earlier misses. Defending champion Steve Hooker of Australia, who's battled injuries in recent years and isn't among the current world leaders, only had to jump once, clearing 5.50, to advance.
Eight hammer throwers topped the automatic qualifying mark of 73 meters to reach Friday's final. Poland's Anita Wlodarcyzk was among the five throwers who qualified on the first throw, leading the way with a toss measuring 75.68/248-3. Defending champion Aksana Miankova of Belarus didn't secure her spot until her final attempt, but came through with a 73.10/239-10 third-round effort.
Ethiopia's Dejen Gebremeskel won the faster 5000-meter heat in 13:15.15 while Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan won the slower heat in 13:25.23 to lead 15 runners into Saturday's final. Other qualifiers included the 10,000-meter gold and silver medalists, Great Britain's Mo Farah and American Galen Rupp, respectively, while Beijing 5000-meter bronze medalist Edwin Soi was among the non-qualifiers.