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Mike Rosenbaum

More Gold for the U.S. as Ali Upsets Pearson in Sopot

By March 8, 2014

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Ashton Eaton was probably the most disappointed-looking world champion we'll ever see, after wrapping up the heptathlon gold medal at the World Indoor Championships Saturday evening in Sopot, Poland. Eaton needed to run 2:33.54 in the final heptathlon event, the 1,000 meters, to break his indoor world record. Eaton dropped behind the required pace and rallied furiously on the last lap but fell short, posting a time of 2:34.72. He gained 933 points for a total of 6,632, the second-best score in history, just 13 short of his 2012 world mark. Still, Eaton won the gold by a huge 329 points, ahead of Andrey Krauchanka of Belarus at 6,303 and Thomas van der Plaetsen of Belgium at 6,259. The silver and bronze medalists both set national indoor records.

Nia Ali of the U.S. scored the biggest upset of the Championships so far by edging Sally Pearson to take the gold in the 60-meter hurdles. Ali, running next to Pearson, finished in a personal best 7.80 seconds. Pearson led out of the blocks but faded just a bit toward the end and clipped the final hurdle to take second in 7.85. Pearson just held off Great Britain's Tiffany Porter, who took the bronze medal in 7.86. Just one-tenth of second separated first through fifth places, with France's Cindy Billaud finishing fourth in 7.89 and American Janay DeLoach Soukup fifth in 7.90.

The men's straight 60 meters was even closer, with just nine-tenths of a second separating all eight competitors. After an agonizing wait for the official results, Great Britain's Richard Kilty celebrated the victory in a time of 6.49 seconds. Kilty entered the year with an indoor personal best of 6.62, then lowered it to 6.53 in his opening heat and 6.52 in the semifinal before his victory Saturday evening. American Marvin Bracy - a 20-year-old who bounced back from a shaky 6.60 performance in his initial heat - was second in 6.51, while Qatar's Femi Ogunode was third in 6.52.

Sweden's Abeba Aregawi was as big a favorite as there was in the Championships, so it was no surprise that she dominated the 1500-meter final. Aregawi took charge by the 600-meter mark and ran off by herself, crossing the line in 4:00.61. The other two medalists posted personal bests. Axumawit Embaye of Ethiopia finished second in 4:07.12 while Rababe Arafi of Morocco narrowly gained the bronze in 4:07.53, just ahead of Canada's Nicole Sifuentes, who ran a national indoor record 4:07.61. American Heather Kampf, the original leader, was slowed by a collision and finished ninth.

Valerie Adams was as much a favorite in the shot put as Aregawi was in the 1500, and the New Zealander also lived up to expectations. Adams threw all five legal attempts past the 20-meter mark and won her third World Indoor title with a fifth-round attempt of 20.67 meters (67 feet, 9 inches). Germany's Christina Schwanitz settled into second place after round 1 and stayed there, eventually reaching 19.94/65-5 in the fifth round to take the silver. China's Gong Liljao moved into third place with a fourth-round toss measuring 19.24/63-1, which stood up for the bronze medal.

The women's triple jump medals were basically decided in the second round, when Ekaterina Koneva of Russia took the lead for good by leaping 14.46/47-5. She couldn't improve on her distance, but it held up to give her the gold medal. First-round leader Olga Saladuha of Ukraine led briefly in the second round at 14.38/47-2 before Kenova flew past. Saladuha eventually closed the gap with a 14.45/47-4 jump in round 4 but had to settle for the silver medal. Jamaica's Kimberly Williams also had leads early in the first and second rounds before settling into the third spot in round 2. Williams reached 14.39/47-2 in the final round to wrap up the bronze.

Konstadinos Filippidis of Greece was perfect through 5.80/19- to earn the pole vault gold medal. Germany's Malte Mohr missed just once - his first try at 5.80 - but that was enough to drop him into the silver medal slot. Jan Kudlicka of the Czech Republic was the third vaulter to clear 5.80 - a personal best in his case - but he did so on his third try, leaving him with the bronze. Kudlicka leapfrogged from fourth to third over Brazil's Thiago Braz da Silva with his clearance at 5.80.

Maria Kuchina of Russia and Poland's Kamila Licwinko finished in a tie for the women's high jump title, as both had identical performances. The result produced the first-ever gold medal tie in World Indoor Championships history, as the women agreed to share the title. Both women, plus Spain's Ruth Beitia, cleared 2.00/6-6. Licwinko, the first Polish woman to win a World Indoor gold medal, and Kuchina both missed once at 1.97/6-5 but were otherwise perfect until missing three times at 2.02/6-7. Beitia cleared 2.00 on her second try, leaving her with the bronze. Blanka Vlasic, trying to come back from two years of health problems, cleared 1.94/6-4 but missed three times at 1.97.

Francena McCorory was fourth midway through the women's 400-meter final, but she powered around the outside, passed three runners at the start of the back straight and pulled away to win the race in 51.12. Veteran Jamaican 400-meter hurdler Kaliese Spencer was second in a personal best 51.54 while Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas took third in 52.06. Like McCorory, Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic started the men's race in lane 5. Unlike McCorory, Maslak started fast and took the lead when the runners left their lanes. He remained ahead to win in a national record 45.24. Chris Brown of the Bahamas was second in a personal best 45.58, while American Kyle Clemons charged hard down stretch to place third in 45.74.

In the men's 1500-meter final, Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti took the early lead and fought off all passing attempts throughout the race. He didn't falter down the stretch and earned the gold medal with a time of 3:37.52. Among those challenging for the lead was Ethiopia's Aman Wote, who settled for the silver in 3:38.08. Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco got the bronze in 3:38.21.

In a dramatic final attempt in the long jump, Brazil's Mauro da Silva soared 8.28/27-2 and leaped from fifth into first place with a national-record effort. Li Jinzhe of China, who led through the first five rounds, had to settle for second at 8.23/27-0, while Sweden's Michel Torneus was third at 8.21/2-11. Russia's Alexandr Menkov was a surprising fifth at 8.08/26-6. He dropped out after four jumps, possibly due to an injury, although none was reported officially.

The United States has earned four gold medals and six medals through two days, and is a good bet to add at least of pair of golds on Sunday, in the 4 x 400-meter relays. Five other countries have two medals apiece. Russia is the only other nation with multiple gold medals, with two so far.

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