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Men Heptathlon Event Six

Tom Pappas's march towards his first global title looked to be coming under threat for the first time in two days after the penultimate event of the two-day Heptathlon, the Pole Vault.

By comfortably clearing his opening attempts at early heights at the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham's National Indoor Arena, the American thus avoided the ignominy that he suffered in Sevilla in 1999, when three failures in this notoriously tricky event during the Decathlon at the World Championships ended any medal aspirations he might have held.

Leading the competition from the first event on Saturday morning, collecting five personal bests along the way, Pappas had completely dominated a field which included the defending World Indoor champion and Decathlon world record-holder, plus the three-time Decathlon World Champion as well as the Olympic Champion.

As the challenges of Roman Sebrle, Tomas Dvorak and Erki Nool either fell by the wayside, or failed to materialise, the question became less one of whether Pappas would win gold, but by how many points. But that would have been to have overlooked the persistent excellence of Lev Lobodin, of Russia.

For once this weekend, Pappas, who has a PV best of 5.20m, underperformed. He was clearly disappointed not to clear better than 4.90m, giving him a six-event total of 5613. With his three closest competitors all jumping higher, the American's lead was whittled away as he sat watching his hard work being unravelled.

Sebrle (with 5.00/910pts), Jon Arnar Magnusson (5.10/941pts) and Lev Lobodin (5.30/1004pts) all set personal bests, the Russian putting himself in a position where he knew he would need to run about 10sec faster than the American in the 1,000m to snatch away the gold at the last.

Urged by his coach, Lobodin had the bar raised to 5.40 in an attempt to gain a further 30 points' advantage, though possibly only added to his mounting fatigue. Lobodin had amassed 5513, Magnusson had moved into a medal position with 5394, with Sebrle slipping into fourth on 5398.

With Pappas a 2:52 runner and Lobodin having a best of 2:43, the finest Heptathlon competition in-depth ever seen was all going to come down to a footrace.

For Pappas to successfully challenge Dan O'Brien's world indoor record he would need to run 2:40.98 in the final event, the 1000 metres.