SOPOT, Poland (AP) — Ashton Eaton kept within world record pace on Saturday with one event in the heptathlon to go at the world indoor championships.
After two failures at 5.20 meters, Eaton slid his body awkwardly to the right and squirmed over the bar with a last-ditch pole vault attempt, to score 5,699 points, nine more than when he set the world record at the same event two years ago.
The closing 1,000 meters, another event where sheer willpower often makes the difference, should certainly yield him gold, since he has a gap of 249 points over his closest challenger, Andrei Krauchanka. And the Belorussian is usually much slower over the middle distance race.
Extending his title though, won't be enough. He set world records in his last three 7-event competitions and he doesn't want to stop now.
And a record would cap another great family weekend after his wife Brianne Theisen Eaton won silver in the pentathlon on Friday, with her husband cheering her on from the infield.
Double defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown made a rusty return to running on Saturday, struggling to qualify for the 60 meter semifinals.
Cleared to run only last month by sport's highest court following a doping scandal, the Jamaican looked sluggish in her heat and finished only third, the last guaranteed spot to advance.
"When you don't compete for a while, you got to feel a little rusty." Last year, authorities said Campbell-Brown had tested positive for a banned diuretic at a local meet and she was forced to skip the world outdoor championships in Moscow.
She vowed to clear her name and the Court of Arbitration for Sport backed her last month. "No, I have nothing to prove. Just doing what I love," she said when asked if she held any grudges.
Her toughest competition is expected from Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast and fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Frasser-Pryce, the double 100 Olympic champion.
In the women's 4x400, Natalya Nazarova anchored the Russian team as it qualified for the final of the relays. If Russia medals, it would be her 10th career medal in the indoor championships, pushing herself past 800 star Maria Mutola of Mozambique. Likewise if Russia wins, it would push her past Mutola in the gold medal category with eight.
Unlike Mutola, Nazarova won most of her medals in the relays.
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Murielle Ahoure from Ivory coast and fellow-Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were fastest in the heats.