Athletics: Isinbayeva sparks worlds with third pole vault title

MOSCOW - Yelena Isinbayeva's indomitable competitive spark ignited the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday, Russia's track and field heroine claiming a third world title amid exultant scenes.

The 31-year-old had not won a global championship since claiming gold in the Beijing Olympics, although she did set a new world record of 5.06 metres in 2009 and claimed a bronze at last year's London Olympics.

But Isinbayeva shouldered the expectations of a demanding nation and put any concerns over her form firmly to bed in front of a raucous capacity crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium, something not even afforded Jamaican Usain Bolt who won the 100m in front of a disappointing crowd on Sunday.

She eventually won the competition with a best of 4.89m - American Olympic champion Jennifer Suhr claiming silver on countback from Cuban Yarisley Silva - and brazenly went on to lap up the noisy attention by enjoying three attempts at what would have been a new world record at 5.07m.

It was the second gold of the day for Russia after Olympic champion Elena Lashmanova earlier claimed victory in the women's 20km walk, and went a long way to dispel bad press about poor spectator attendances at the worlds.

While Isinbayeva and her rivals fought it out in the field, there were two outstanding performances on the track from Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and American Lashawn Merritt.

Aman, at the age of just 19, produced a gutsy display and a deadly kick to claim a first-ever medal of any colour for Ethiopia in the 800m by winning gold. The two-lap event had sadly been shorn of the sublime talents of the injured David Rudisha, the Kenyan who broke the world record in winning the Olympic title last year.

But Aman filled the void magnificently, battling outside Nick Symmonds and outsprinting the American to the line for victory in 1min 43.31sec. "This gold medal is a big thing for me and my country," he said. "It was not easy, a world championships final is such a hard race. All the athletes in the race were very strong and it's a double pleasure to be first in such company."

Symmonds held on for silver in 1:43.55, with a fast-advancing Ayanleh Souleiman claiming bronze in 1:43.76, a first medal for Djibouti since Ahmed Salah won silver in the marathon in the 1991 Tokyo worlds.

Merritt turned on the afterburners to regain the 400m world title he last won in 2009, restoring some credibility to a reputation that took a battering over a 21-month doping ban he managed to have cut on appeal.

The 27-year-old clocked 43.74sec ahead of compatriot Tony McQuay (44.40sec), with Luquelin Santos of the Dominican Republic third (44.52sec). Olympic and defending champion Kirani James of Grenada faded to seventh after tying up.

"I was probably the hungriest person in the field - no I was starving," said Merritt. "It's been a while since I was able to perform at my highest level. I was mentally and physically confident."

Isinbayeva was not the only athlete to notch up a treble of world titles, Germany's Robert Harting claiming a third successive discus crown with a best of 69.11m.

"How does one celebrate in Russia? Long and hard, I guess," said Harting. Although lacking the presence of both the defending world and Olympic champions, Tatyana Chernova of Russia and Briton Jessica Ennis-Hill, the heptathlon was as dramatic as it possibly could have been, with all left riding on the seventh and final event, the 800m.

Ukraine's Ganna Melnichenko eventually deprived Canada's Brianne Theisen Eaton of gold, the latter leaving herself an unsurmountable winning target of 4.69sec over the two laps.

That ruined what would have been a famous multi-event double after the Canadian's husband, Ashton Eaton of the United States, won decathlon gold on Sunday.

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