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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Poland spring huge shock on favourites

CHAMPIONS: Karol Zalewski, Rafal Omelko, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina of Poland celebrate with their medals after winning the men’s 4x400m relay. Pic: Hannah McKay
CHAMPIONS: Karol Zalewski, Rafal Omelko, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina of Poland celebrate with their medals after winning the men’s 4x400m relay. Pic: Hannah McKay

Poland's unheralded 4x400m relay men caused the biggest sensation of the entire world indoor championships in the final track event on Sunday -- and even astonished themselves when they set the event's only world record at the last gasp.

"It is a big shock and surprise for us. We were targeting the European record but really did not expect a result like this and never dreamed about the world record," said one of the Poles' astonished quartet, Rafal Omelko, with a bewildered smile.

The quartet of Karol Zalewski, Omelko, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina established a world indoor mark of three minutes 01.77 seconds, which was remarkable enough in itself.

Yet what truly amazed was the manner in which Krzewina, turning himself into an instant Polish hero, hunted down American anchor leg runner Vernon Norwood to pip what was supposed to be an unbeatable U.S. squad in the dying strides.

Meanwhile, French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie retained his world indoor title in one of the most tightly contested competitions ever to claim his 11th major gold medal.

Even by pole vaulting's tough standards, this was always going to be fiercely fought with nine finalists boasting season's bests of at least 5.88 metres.

But it always seemed likely to come down to a joust between Lavillenie, who won the title in 2012 and 2016, and his great American rival Sam Kendricks, unbeaten in 2017.

The wily Lavillenie is a supreme competitor and, after waiting until 5.70 to enter, became the only man to jump clear at 5.90.

That left Kendrick, who twice failed at that height, to claim silver after failing to clear 5.95 and Piotr Lisek bronze, bringing Poland their fifth medal of the championships.

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