MOSCOW (Reuters) - Yelena Isinbayeva was not competing on Thursday but Russia’s newly-crowned pole vault queen remained firmly in the world championships limelight as she ignited fresh debate over her country’s anti-gay propaganda law.
Isinbayeva entranced her adoring crowd again during a tearful medal ceremony and is popular throughout the world but she will have lost some admirers after voicing her support for the new law and condemning Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro for painting rainbows on her nails in support of gay rights.
Her outburst, and the wave of subsequent condemnation, will ensure that the controversial law will continue to cast a shadow over the event and next year’s Sochi Olympics, but for the athletes competing in the Luzhniki Stadium it was the furthest thing from their minds.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon pipped American Michel Tinsley by 100th of a second to take a thrilling 400 meters hurdles gold while Zuzana Hejnova won the women’s version in a Czech national record.
Ezekiel Kemboi maintained his and Kenya’s stranglehold on the 3,000m steeplechase with his third successive world title while Abeba Arewgawi, the Ethiopian-turned Swede unbeaten all season, won a brilliant women’s 1,500m.
Bohdan Bondarenko won a gripping men’s high jump final while Caterin Ibarguen took Colombia’s first-ever world gold in the women’s triple jump.
It is Isinbayeva, however, who is likely to hog the headlines.
“We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys ... it comes from the history,” she said in an interview in English after describing Green-Tregaro as disrespectful.
“I hope the problem won’t ruin our Olympic Games in Sochi,” she added, in the wake of some calls for a boycott of next year’s winter Olympics.
American 800m silver medalist Nick Symmonds responded by telling BBC Radio 5-Live: “It blows my mind that a young, so well-educated woman can be so behind the times.
“Guess what Yelena - a large portion of your citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals,” added Symmonds, who said he wanted to compete with a rainbow sticker but was told he could potentially face jail if he did.
Back on the track, the race of the night came in the men’s one-lap hurdles as Olympic silver medalist Tinsley took it out early and was leading by two meters coming into the home straight.
Olympic champion Felix Sanchez, in a remarkable seventh successive world championship final 12 years after winning the title in Edmonton, could not live with the pace this time but 21-year-old Gordon maintained his form superbly to close the gap.
In a dramatic surge for the line both men dipped and crashed to the track but Gordon had timed his charge perfectly as he was timed at 47.69 to the personal best 47.70 of Tinsley to take his country’s first gold since Ato Boldon’s 200m win in 1997.
“I Kept patient, I kept calm and I executed the best race of my life today,” said Gordon.
Serbia’s Emir Bekric took bronze in a national record 48.05.
The women’s version went to script as Hejnova, unbeaten all season, powered clear to win in 52.83.
Americans Dalilah Muhammad, more than a second behind, and 2011 world champion Lashinda Demus took the minor medals.
There was also a familiar look about the steeplechase, not only during the race where four Kenyans controlled it from the start, but in the finishing positions.
Kenyans, including one who switched allegiance to Qatar, have now won 12 of the 14 world steeplechase titles and 31-year-old Kemboi, who has two Olympic golds in the event, has taken the last three.
Compatriot Conseslus Kipruto, 18, chased him home while Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad repeated his bronze from Daegu.
Bondarenko had a great battle with Olympic bronze medalist Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Canada Derek Drouin, who both cleared 2.38 meters.
Bondarenko had 2.35 under his belt but then bravely passed on 2.38, only to miss his first attempt at 2.41, a height he has not managed all year.
At the second attempt, however, he made it, for gold, though his latest attempt on Javier Sotomayor’s 20-year-old world record of 2.45 fell short.
Aregawi was missed out after a bad tactical approach in the Olympics last year when representing Ethiopia, ran brilliantly in the yellow of the country she has lived in for 11 years.
Defending champion Jennifer Simpson of the United States bravely struck for home on the final bend but this time Aregawi was perfectly placed to sweep past her in four minutes 2.67 seconds. Simpson took silver ahead of Kenya’s Hellen Obiri.
Missing from the race was Turkey’s Olympic champion Asli Cakir Alptekin, one of several 1,500m women to have failed doping tests in recent years.
Women’s sprinting has also been hard-hit and defending 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica was another to miss Moscow for all the wrong reasons.
Fortunately, Olympic champion Allyson Felix was on hand to deliver another typically silky display in her heat as she eyes an unprecedented ninth world gold in all events in Friday’s final.
Usain Bolt is also back on the track on Friday in the first round and semi-finals of the 200 meters.
Editing by Justin Palmer