Elton Tucker, Assistant Sport Editor
The U.S.'s Leroy Dixon (right) crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the men's 4x100m relay final yesterday. At left is Asafa Powell, who powered Jamaica to the silver medal. - AP
MAURICE SMITH captured a historic silver medal in the decathlon while the women's and men's sprint relays were both second as Jamaica enjoyed a memorable night on yesterday's penultimate day of competition at the 11th IAAF World Championships here.
Before more than 50,000 cheering spectators, by far the best crowd seen at the Nagai Stadium since the championships began eight days ago, Smith crowned an exhausting two days in the 10-event contest with a national record 8,644 points, a whopping 295 more than the 8,349 mark he held before competition began here. His tally was just 32 behind gold medallist, world record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic.
The men's sprint relay team, anchored by Asafa Powell, also added a bit of history as it became the first Jamaican quartet to go under 38 seconds clocking 37.89 for second behind the United States, who won in 37.78.
The three silver medals pushed Jamaica's tally at the prestigious championships to nine - one gold, five silver and three bronze. The United States lead with 11 gold, four silver and seven bronze medals.
Gold looked on the cards
Smith's medal is the first in the event for Jamaica at the 24-year-old World Championships. Gold looked on the cards when the 26-year-old graduate in adult education from Auburn University finished first in the 110m hurdles in 13.91 seconds then won the discus with a best of 52.36m after starting the day on top with 4,525 points.
The early success put him up to 6,431 points, 221 ahead of Sebrle (6,210) who wasthen in third.
The gap remained the same after the pole vault as both men cleared 4.80m. The next event, the javelin, proved decisive.
Sebrle let out a huge roar as he did a personal best 71.18m while Smith, bothered by a heavily strapped injured elbow, got up to a season-best 53.61m. The Czech went in front, 7,966 to 7,922, and collected gold after the 1,500m.
Despite narrowly missing the gold, Smith was extremely happy.
"I feel like a winner because I know I gave it my best and that was what I came here to do," he said. "I knew I had my work cut out as there were some very talented guys out there. Roman (Sebrle) is a fighter. He is the world record holder and I have a lot of respect for him."
The Americans, helped by two torrid third-leg runs and uncertain baton changing from Jamaica's men, won both sprint relays.
Jamaica's Veronica Campbell ran her heart out but could not peg back American Torri Edwards in the women's final after Mikele Barber had won her battle with Simone Facey on the third leg. The U.S. won in 41.98 seconds with Jamaica's quartet of Sheri-Ann Brooks, Kerron Stewart, Facey and Campbell second in a season-best 42.01. Belgium were third in a national record 42.75.
Powell also could not close the four-metre gap 100m winner Tyson Gay had given the Americans in the men's relay. With Jamaica fumbling the first change, giving Wallace Spearmon the chance to keep level with Usain Bolt on the second leg, Gay took the opportunity to blow away 100m semi-finalist Nesta Carter and give anchorman Leroy Dixon the big lead. Collecting the baton in fourth, Powell motored into second ahead of Britain but the Americans were just too far ahead.
"We made some mistakes but it is a national record, the first time Jamaica is running so fast," Powell said.
"We will be a lot better next year for the Olympics when we get more practice and become more familiar," he said. The full Jamaican quartet was Marvin Anderson, Bolt, Carter and Powell. The British team took the bronze in 37.90.
The curtain willcome down on the championships tonight here with Jamaica seeking to add to their tally in the finals of the men's and women's 4x400m. It will be very difficult for both teams as the U.S., Russia and Britain are tough on the women's side. Among the men, the Americans are unbeatable. The Bahamas are also very strong along with Poland and Great Britain. Jamaica will call on 400m hurdles fifth-place finisher Danny McFarlane to bolster the men's quartet.
IN ACTION TODAY
6:30 a.m: 4x400m final
6:50 a.m: 4x400m final