World pole vault record-holder Renaud Lavillenie suffers shock defeat to Canadian in Beijing
This week’s IAAF World Championships has been full of surprises so far and the theme continued in the pole vault when one of the biggest names in athletics was beaten to gold by a little-known 21-year-old from Canada.
Renaud Lavillenie, the world record-holder and Olympic champion, only managed 5.80m to share bronze with Pawel Wojciechowski and Piotr Lisek of Poland.
Barber, though, cleared 5.90m at his first attempt while the frustrated Frenchman failed the height three times.
Silver went to Raphael Holzdeppe, as the German put up a sterling defence of the title he won in Moscow two years ago to clear 5.90m on his third try.
Barber took Commonwealth bronze last year in Glasgow but improved to 5.93m this year in London and won the Pan American title in the run-up to Beijing.
The 6ft 2in athlete grew up in New Mexico but is eligible to compete for Canada through his father, George, who himself is a former top pole vaulter.
For Lavillenie, though, his world championship curse continues because he only has one silver and three bronze medals to show for his efforts.
Over on the track and with a scintillating sprint over the last 250m, Ezekiel Kemboi won his fourth consecutive world 3000m steeplechase victory as his Kenyan team-mates filled the top four places.
Kemboi, who is also a two-time Olympic champion, took off down the back straight on the final lap and held off Conseslus Kipruto for gold in 8:11.28 with Brimin Kipruto third and Jairus Birech fourth.
Kemboi’s delight was obvious, too, as he unleashed his trademark dance soon after the finish, much to the amusement of fans in the Bird’s Nest stadium.
Evan Jager, America’s big gold medal hope, was poised in second with 400m to go, but faded to sixth as he was pipped on the line by his team-mate Daniel Huling.
Isaac Makwala of Botswana led the qualifiers for Wednesday’s 400m final after winning his semi-final in 44.11. Behind him, British champion Rabah Yousif was third in a big PB of 44.54.
It was enough to get Yousif into the final and his first ever sub-45-second run moved him from 17th to seventh on the UK all-time rankings.
In the other semi-finals, Kirani James ran 44.16 to beat Luguelin Santos, while Wayde Van Niekerk clocked 44.31 to pip Lashawn Merritt in the third and final semi-final. There was disappointment for GB team captain Martyn Rooney, though, as he ran 45.29 in sixth following a PB in the previous day’s heats.
In javelin qualifying, Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago was a surprise elimination. Throwers who made it through were led by German Andreas Hofmann’s 86.14m, while big names like Vitezslav Vesely, Julius Yego and Tero Pitkamaki also eased through to the final on Wednesday.
» Much more in the August 27 issue of Athletics Weekly magazine