Nick Hysong (USA) celebrates in Sydney after his 2000 Olympic pole vault win (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Men's pole vault final

Nick Hysong achieved every athlete's dream, setting a personal best to win Olympic gold in front of 100,000 spectators. His first time clearance of 5.90m made him the first American vaulter to win this event since 1968, and revived a glorious US tradition (the nation won 15 of the first 16 Olympic titles).

Even better for the USA - Lawrence Johnson took silver, also with 5.90m, to become the first African-American to win a medal in this event and help the US achieve it's first 1-2 finish since 1960. And all that was achieved even though the top ranked American, Jeff Hartwig, who cleared 6.03 earlier this season, was watching on television at home because he failed to qualify for the US Olympic team!

The bronze medal went to the 1992 Olympic champion Maksim Tarasov, who also cleared 5.90m, as did fourth placed Michael Stolle of Germany, who lost out on "count back".

At the opening height of 5.50m, only Stolle struggled, making it through with his third attempt, with his team-mate Tim Lobinger going over with his second vault. Germany, with Danny Ecker also in the field, actually had more representatives in the final than any other nation, and with these three ranked in the world's top four this season, they were expected to challenge for the medals. But Lobinger, who was the best on paper based on this season's form, was out of sorts - failing three times at the next height of 5.70m - leaving Ecker and Stolle to carry the flag.

With the bar at 5.70m, the two Australians Dmitriy Markov and Viktor Chistiakov were keeping the crowd happy.

Markov had cleared 5.50 first time and opted to pass 5.70m, while Chistiakov made two clean clearances at each height, to share the lead with South Africa's Okkert Brits and Johnson, who also started faultlessly.

Tarasov elected to skip 5.70m, having soared over the opening height. Going out at this stage were Yevgeniy Smiryagin (RUS), last year's world championship bronze medallist Alexander Averbukh and Guiseppe Gibilisco, with Spain's Montxu Miranda clearing with his third attempt.

The competition really burst into life in the next round, with the bar at 5.80m.

First Hysong, then Johnson, cleared with first attempts, the latter going into the lead by merit of having not failed to that point (Hysiong needed two tries at 5.70). But then the crowd roared its approval as the two Aussies both cleared first time, Chistiakov setting a season's best into the bargain. Brits, Tarasov, Stolle and Ecker both failed their first attempts, but made it with their second tries.

The bar was raised to 5.90m, and to his delight, Hysong cleared first time to move into the gold medal position.

With Johnson and Tarasov only clearing with second attempts and Stolle with his third, this would prove to be the decisive vault of the competition.

With the bar raised to 5.96m - these four were still in the competition, as was Markov, who failed twice at 5.90m but elected - unsuccessfully - to use his remaining vault at 5.96m.

The remaining athletes also failed their first two attempts, leaving a nail-biting climax as Hysong knelt and prayed that no-one would overtake him. Even worse,

Hysong was the first to fail three times, and then had an anxious wait as first Johnson, then Tarasov and finally Stolle, knocked off the bar for the last time.

With a whoop of joy, Hysong embraced Johnson and the pair set off on a victory lap, joined together by a US flag.