Ashton Eaton in the men's Decathlon High Jump at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
The High Jump, the fourth event of the Decathlon, proved to be the event which changed the whole competition.
There were heart-breaking moments for several athletes and all three Olympic medallists from London 2012 suffered setbacks. The biggest impact was on Trey Hardee, who had won the last two World titles in Berlin and Daegu as the US athlete didn’t clear his opening height of 1.90m. This of course meant the end of his medal hunt in Moscow.
The High Jump went almost as badly for Cuban Leonel Suarez, who had won a record four successive medals in global championships. There will be no fifth straight medal as the 25-year-old was in trouble from the start, almost emulating Hardee and only clearing his opening height 1.84m on his third try.
He then went on to jump 1.90m, also with his third attempt, before failing three times at 1.96m. Usually a consistent two-metre jumper, his High Jump performance today may well have ruined his chances of another medal.
There was trouble for the Olympic champion and World record-holder as well with Ashton Eaton finishing the competition with just 1.96m.
This too was considerably lower than expected and shows that with problems in the two jumping events, the Long Jump and High Jump, the US champion is carrying an injury, which will affect his performances in the remaining six events.
What this also means is that Eaton is no longer the sole favourite to win. Instead it looks like Dutchman Eelco Sintnicolaas has a good shot at the medals after an outdoor personal best of 2.02m, six centimetres below his indoor best.
There were big changes at the top of the Decathlon during the fourth event and the lead now belongs to US youngster Gunnar Nixon, who jumped 2.14m to top this event for 3611, giving him a clear lead.
Nixon, however, is not strong enough during the second day to challenge for victory, or he would at least have to set some big personal bests to even get close to the others.
Germany’s Michael Schrader continued well with a 1.99m clearance, which gives him the second place with 3501 before the last event of the first day.
Eaton is in a tough spot now, having dropped back to third place with 3495. He needs a decent 400m result of 47.5 or faster; anything slower than that will give the others a real chance of challenging him for the gold.
Canadian Damian Warner had another good event with a jump of 2.05m and is in fourth place with 3492, within touching distance of a medal. Sintnicolaas is fifth with 3421, closely followed by Belarusian Andrei Krauchanka, who jumped a season’s best of 2.11m for sixth place with 3413.
German Rico Freimuth cleared 1.99m and is in seventh place (3389), but he and Brazilian Carlos Chinin, who cleared 1.96m today, are a bit behind from a medal pace right now and need to have a good result in the next couple of events to get back there with the others.
In ninth place is the 2013 world leader, Germany’s Pascal Behrenbruch, and his 1.99m still keeps him in medal contention. With Eaton and Sintnicolaas, he is the third athlete who is set for a final score above 8500.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF