Estonian survives controversy to take decathlon gold
Estonia's Erki Nool survived a controversy which would have cost him a medal of any colour to snatch the Sydney Games decathlon title on Thursday.
American Chris Huffins, meanwhile, saw his hopes of gold vanish in the final metres of the final event after leading throughout the competition.
The 30-year-old Nool, reinstated in the discus after his three throws were originally all ruled fouls, ran a magnificent final 1,500 metres to take the title, timing four minutes 29.48 seconds and crossing the line almost 10 seconds ahead of Huffins.
Nool scored 8,641 points, with Czech Roman Sebrle taking the silver (8,606) ahead of Huffins (8,595).
It was Nool's first medal at Olympic or world championship level.
His last discus throw was ruled fair after an appeal. Further appeals from other nations kept the judges busy all evening but they were eventually dismissed to leave Nool free to gain ground with the javelin before running to gold.
Nool, who was called by the president and prime minister of Estonia immediately after his win, said: "The referee said it (the throw) was okay and I can't say anything after that.
"I have dreamed of running a victory lap with the Estonian flag for many years and now I have done it -- we are a very small country and every medal is important."
Sebrle also overtook Huffins after the 1,500, leaving the American hanging on for bronze ahead of British world championship silver medallist Dean Macey.
Czech double world champion and world record holder Tomas Dvorak finished sixth after struggling with injury and illness.
It was one of the closest championship decathlons in years.
Huffins set the pace with a 10.48 seconds 100 metres on Wednesday morning.
Huffins, whose third place in last year's world championships was his best result in a decade of competition, then showed consistently in the long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 metres to finish the first day eight points ahead of Macey.
Nool was back in fifth after managing only 2.00 metres in the high jump but a good 400 metres moved him to third.
TOOK FULL ADVANTAGE
Huffins started well again on Thursday, throwing caution to the wind in slippery conditions to record the second-fastest 110 metres hurdles and winning the discus with 49.55 metres.
Nool then looked to have blown his chances in the discus only for the appeal judges to rule that part of his foot had not left the throwing circle, giving him an effort of 43.66 metres and crucial points.
The Estonian then cleared 5.00 metres in the pole vault to move into second.
Huffins's disappointing javelin throw of 56.62 metres raised only 687 points to leave him only 14 points ahead of Nool.
With the 1,500 metres his weakest event, the American knew his chance of gold was over.
Nool needed to make up two-and-a-half seconds and had already achieved that after the first lap. Sebrle's target was nine seconds and he found 10.
Macey produced a personal best 4:23.45 to finish 15 seconds ahead of Huggins but it was not enough.
Dan O'Brien of the United States, the 1996 Olympic champion and Games record holder with 8,824 points, missed Sydney with a foot injury.
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