Osaka Notes, Day Eight-by Mary Nicole Nazzaro

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Nicole speaks, in her day 8 column, about some of the great events that filled the roster on Saturday...

Osaka Notes
By Mary Nicole Nazzaro
Day 8: Saturday, September 1, 2007

Talk about clutch performances. There were a bunch of them on Saturday night at Nagai Stadium, and it's part of the joy and charm of the world championships that being there makes all the difference. At home in the United States, we'll read about Tyson Gay and his third gold medal in the 4x100 relay final, and about Allyson Felix and her second gold, and news from a smattering of other high-profile events. But how about Japan's men's 4x100 team going fifth in the final - no big deal to American track fans, right? - for a national and Asian record on the penultimate night of these championships? Electrifying.

That's heart. That's a clutch performance. There have been too many to count over the last eight days, but here are a few of the highlights.

Decathlon: Heartbreakers for two of America's best, Bryan Clay and Tom Pappas, who both succumbed to injuries during the competition, but a personal-best javelin throw (71.18 m) from Olympic gold medalist Roman Sebrle, age 32. That performance vaulted him past Jamaica's Maurice Smith into the lead, where he stayed after trotting home in the 1500 meters. The near-capacity crowd knew what they were seeing immediately - a clutch performance from a great champion. Total margin of victory over Smith after ten events: 32 points. Of the seven men behind Sebrle, there were two national records, three personal bests, and a season best. That included a national record for Jamaica with Smith's 8644.

Men's Pole Vault: Sometimes, you just know. When Brad Walker sailed over 5.86 on his first attempt in the men's pole vault final, there was a palpable feeling in the stadium: "that was the gold-medal vault." It wasn't super-high, but it was enough, and it was a beauty. A few minutes later France's Romain Mesnil notched silver by reaching that 5.86-meter height on his second attempt. It would be the last clearance of the evening. Walker looked good all evening with a slight hiccup on his first attempt at 5.76, but otherwise was able to control the nerves, the weather and the competition. Helsinki silver, Osaka gold. Well done. Ukraine's Maksym Mazuryk, the eventual eleventh-place finisher, deserves a special Clutch Award for making two consecutive heights on his third attempt - a model of perseverance in an event that demands it. And the crowd loved him for it.

Women's 4x400 Relays: Japan again, with another national record. In the first women's 4x400-meter relay heat, Japanese anchor Mayu Kida stayed with Mecixo and France as long as she could. At stake was a berth in the final, but also the clock. Kida, to the great pleasure of her home fans, pushed all the way to a 3: 30.17 national record. The Japanese team finished sixth in the heat and did not advance, but still gave the Osaka fans something to cheer about.

Women's Marathon: Ah, that's a tease. Tune in tomorrow to hear about perhaps the most inpsiring clutch performance seen here in Osaka. Hint: Catherine the Great is in town.

Mary Nicole Nazzaro : http://chinasports.wokpopcorn.com

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