The decathlon became a two-man race through seven events Friday morning as Americans Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee continued to separate themselves from the field. Eaton then separated himself from Hardee in the eighth event, the pole vault, leaping 5.20 meters (17 feet, ¾ inch), while Hardee could only clear 4.80/15-9. The extra 123 points Eaton gained on Hardee in the event opened Eaton's lead to 222 points, with just two events remaining.
Hardee began the day well by running a personal best 13.54 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles to lead all competitors, but he only gained three points on Eaton, who ran a season-best 13.56. Hardee then closed the gap by hurling the discus 48.26/158-4, to Eaton's 42.53/139-6, to trim the overall lead to 99 points. But after missing three times at 5.00/16-4¾ in the pole vault, Hardee has 7,159 points, while Eaton owns 7,381. Eaton is 87 points behind the world record pace he set in the U.S. Trials, a large gap to make up with two events remaining, but he's within range of Roman Sebrle's Olympic record of 8,893 points.
Germany's Rico Freimuth leads the battle for the decathlon bronze medal with 6,927 points, followed by Damian Warner of Canada (6,916), Ukraine's Oleksiy Kasyanov (6,901) and Hans van Alphen of Belgium (6,889). The decathlon concludes with the javelin throw and 1500-meter run tonight.
A clearance of 1.93/6-4 with one or fewer misses bought a ticket to the women's high jump final for 11 of the 12 qualifiers Thursday, including all the event's favorites. Svetlana Radzivil of Uzbekistan was the lone jumper to clear the automatic qualifying height of 1.96/6-5 after she missed twice at 1.93. The biggest names among the non-qualifiers were 5-time Olympic veteran Amy Acuff of the U.S., Germany's Ariane Friedrich and Tonje Angelsen of Norway. The high jump final is set for Saturday.
With LaShawn Merritt injured, the men's 4 x 400-meter relay is a wide-open event. But the U.S. had no trouble qualifying for Friday's final, running in a virtual dead heat with the Bahamas in the second qualifying race. The Bahamas, featuring open 400-meter finalists Demetrius Pinder and Chris Brown, was declared the heat's winner. The U.S. was credited with an identical time of 2:58.87. The American team included Manteo Mitchell, Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum, but look for hurdler Angelo Taylor and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner to race in the final. Jamaica dropped out of the race when its third runner, Jermaine Gonzales, suffered an injury, while the Dominican Republic was disqualified for passing the baton out of the exchange zone.
Trinidad and Tobago, led by 400-meter bronze medalist Lalonde Gordon, won the first 4 x 400 heat, although the second-place British squad was also credited with a time of 3:00.38. The Kenyan and South African teams collided near the end of the first lap. As a result, South Africa couldn't continue in the race while Kenya was disqualified.